Weber High principal retires amid investigation of how she handled allegation of improper recruiting

The school’s assistant football coach has been fired; the head coach has served a one-game suspension, though there was “no evidence” he was involved in improper recruiting.

(Weber School District) At Weber High School in Pleasant View, the school's principal has decided to retire, following questions about how she handled a football program investigation.

Weber High Principal Chris Earnest has decided to retire, the Weber School District announced Thursday, as it concluded its investigation into how she handled allegations that the school had inappropriately recruited football players from another district.

She had been on administrative leave since Aug. 16, pending the investigation’s results.

“As the investigation drew to a close, Ms. Earnest let the district know, through her attorney, that she will be retiring effective immediately,” said district spokesperson Lane Findlay. “Because Ms. Earnest chose to retire, there is nothing further for the district to do.”

Findlay said that the district does not plan to release any additional information about its investigation, which had been completed, due to Earnest’s retirement and a “non-disclosure agreement that was signed.”

Earnest had served 31 years with the Weber School District and had earned her retirement benefits, according to the district news release.

Her departure comes shortly after the school’s assistant football coach, Zac Connors, was fired after a district investigation found he had exerted undue influence by recruiting two players from the Davis School District.

“Undue influence” refers to the improper recruitment of athletes from other schools, a practice prohibited by the Utah High School Activities Association.

Earnest was originally tasked with investigating complaints made over the summer that football players had been inappropriately recruited. However, the district later received complaints alleging that Earnest mishandled the situation. This prompted a second investigation at the district level.

“While this investigation took longer than the district would have liked, it was necessary to follow through with the complaints that the district received,” Findlay said. “Anything less than following through with reports would have resulted in an incomplete investigation.”

The two students in question were deemed eligible to continue playing football at Weber High following an eligibility hearing on Aug. 31, said UHSAA attorney Mark Van Wagoner.

According to UHSAA policy, a student may transfer to another school and participate in athletics under certain circumstances, such as a family move or as a result of a divorce.

However, if they transfer for reasons not permitted by the UHSAA, and want to play sports, they are required to compete at the sub varsity level for 12 months before becoming eligible for varsity, according to the UHSAA Handbook.

Typically when athletics violations happen, regional boards are responsible for handling any disciplinary action. Weber is in the 6A Region 1 for athletics.

UHSAA spokesperson Jeff Cluff previously told the Salt Lake Tribune that the Weber School District voluntarily self-reported its violations to Region 1, which is fairly common.

The regional board may impose sanctions on the Weber High football program, Findlay said.

Although the final determination is currently unknown, Findlay said the district recommended head coach Jayson Anderson serve a one-game suspension, which he has already done, during the school’s Sept. 1 game against Wasatch.

Though the district’s investigation determined Anderson had not been involved in the recruitment of the two players, as head of the football program, he bears responsibility, Findlay said.

“There was no evidence to show that [Anderson] was involved in that,” Findlay said. “But because he’s over the program and responsible for it, we felt that that was an appropriate sanction.”

The Region 1 board accepted the recommendation and will present it at the next UHSAA executive committee meeting, which is scheduled for Oct. 4. The committee has the final say as to accept or reject the board’s recommendations.

In the meantime, Weber High will look for Earnest’s replacement.

“Pending administrative changes are expected to take place at the school over the next couple of weeks,” the news release stated.