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Prep football: Allegations of financial misconduct preceded Lone Peak coach's resignation

Published February 26, 2013 9:16 pm

Prep football • Lone Peak's McGeary resigns after parents allege financial misconduct.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Amid allegations of kickbacks and an inappropriate sponsorship deal, Lone Peak coach Tony McGeary resigned this week from the football program he led to a 51-12 record and a state championship in his five years at the helm.

Late last year, roughly 20 parents — described by one source as "parents of starters, bench warmers, past players, current players, future players" — were involved in filing a complaint against McGeary, and requesting an investigation be conducted by the Alpine School District.

The complaint levels the following accusations:

• He required players to pay a $250 fee to attend a summer camp and tryout at the College of Eastern Utah, when the actual cost of the camp was $155 per player. The documents allege McGeary and his staff were hired as subcontractors by CEU and essentially received kickbacks — $400 for most assistants and $5,735 for McGeary.

• McGeary improperly entered into a deal with an Under Armour distributor and required his players to purchase and wear the company's merchandise.

District spokeswoman Rhonda Bromley said a review was conducted as part of Alpine's standard practices, but would not discuss the findings.

McGeary met with Lone Peak principal Kenneth Koop last week and was told he would not be retained as the school's football coach, a year-to-year position, Bromley said. McGeary then announced his resignation Monday to speed up the process. In his resignation letter, McGeary denied any wrongdoing.

"I believe I have handled every aspect regarding finances for our program with the utmost integrity and character," McGeary wrote. "I am exiting this program in the black, and have been instrumental in the improvements to our facilities."

The complaint against McGeary points to various violations of district policies. The documents claim that McGeary overcrowded the camp (185 players signed up) in hopes of making more money for himself, at the expense of some of the players.

"As a consequence of Mr. McGeary's actions a culture of disposable, discardable, and expendable youth was created," the complaint states. "Players were often told and reminded that they were expendable and could be replaced at any time. The CEU camp is the root cause of many, if not most, of the player mistreatment and neglect issues described in this complaint and complained of by the parents. Many boys felt invisible and worthless due to the unmanageable numbers on the football teams. Instead of giving every player the opportunity to play and having a meaningful football experience, the massive numbers led to just the opposite experience for most boys in Mr. McGeary's program."

McGeary's supporters say the allegations are false, the result of a "witch hunt" by parents upset about player treatment or a lack of playing time.

"He's a guy of the highest integrity you can possibly find," Alpine Education Association president Mike Gowans said of McGeary. "He's there for the kids and his team and he's there for the community and the school. The allegations that have been made, we feel, are completely false."

Lone Peak quarterback Baron Gajkowski spoke highly of McGeary and said he and his teammates were "shocked" by their coach's resignation.

"We love and respect coach McGeary and we look up to him," the junior said. "We were looking forward to having a great season with him."

Gajkowski said the CEU camp was important but not mandatory. Lone Peak wide receiver and BYU signee Talon Shumway did not attend but still played for the Knights, the quarterback said. Gajkowski also said players were allowed to wear any brand of apparel they wanted on the field.

"You can look through any pictures, I'm sporting Nike cleats and my Nike socks," he said. "I don't really like Under Armour. I'm a Nike guy."

A handout to parents last spring, however, stated there was an agreement between Under Armour and Lone Peak and that the school "requires all football players to wear Under Armour cleats for the 2012 year." At that time, McGeary had entered into a deal with a distributor but was later told by Koop that he had done so improperly, according to emails included in the complaint. McGeary and the company then tore up the contract but entered into a "handshake agreement," which McGeary wrote would be "easier and less hassle."

McGeary later told parents there was no deal with Under Armour. By that point, parents said, they had already purchased cleats and other items.

McGeary will remain at Lone Peak as a physical education teacher for now. Bromley said no decision has been made regarding whether he will stay at Lone Peak or in the Alpine School District beyond this school year.

afalk@sltrib.com

Twitter: @aaronfalk