High school football: Former Alta coach Les Hamilton denies wrongdoing
Keith Johnson, Deseret News
SANDY — Former Alta football coach Les Hamilton adamantly denies any wrongdoing as the Canyons School District investigates accusations of financial irregularities and misconduct in the program he ran for six years before resigning in October.
"They're all lies," said Hamilton, who had a conference call with the Canyons School District on Thursday.
He was told the investigation is ongoing, but is confident his name will be cleared.
"I'm going to fight to clear my name, but I'm not going to let this leave a bad taste in my mouth about Alta," said Hamilton, who has been accused of taking bribes from parents, taking apparel from the concession stands and withholding college recruiting letters from students.
The Canyons School District released the following statement about the matter:
"The Canyons District administration has received allegations of financial irregularities regarding a football program in the district. As is customary when the district is given information that warrants further examination, the superintendent turned the information over to the district's compliance officer for an internal investigation."
Hamilton is disappointed the matter has become public and believes it could've been handled much better by the district. His frustration is with the source of the accusation, Todd Handley, who Hamilton filed a restraining order against because he allegedly threatened, through an assistant, to kill Hamilton earlier this season.
Hamilton believes the accusations are Handley's way of getting back at him for benching his son midway through the season. Alta was 2-4 when Hamilton benched quarterback Boston Handley, who had thrown nine touchdowns and seven interceptions at the time.
"We made that decision as a coaching staff, and that's the decision we all stood by as a staff," said Hamilton. "Every time in a close game when we needed a big play down the stretch he threw a pick, and he threw interceptions for touchdowns late in games. We couldn't win games with him, and I told him that."
Hamilton said the financial irregularities with the concession stand are easy to explain. In the six years he was the head coach at Alta, it was understood that from time to time he would take apparel from the concession stand to give as gifts to administrators, custodians, coaches' wives, etc.
Hamilton said the other accusations are "flat-out lies," and he's disappointed the school district is even pursuing them. He believes his strained relationship with Canyons School District superintendent Dr. David Doty might be the reason why.
"I don't know that I've always had a great relationship with him. He knows I've been very outward about the new Draper High School. Why split one of the best high schools in the country?" said Hamilton.
Hamilton said Doty also blasted him for critical comments he made toward Rio Tinto Stadium earlier this year after the Bingham-Alta football game fell through.
"I don't know if they have animosity toward me, but the way they've handled this and the way it's got out in the open and to actually do an investigation over something is so preposterous, and was brought to them by somebody that has no credibility."
Hamilton is accused of taking money from Fred Ninow — and even accepting a new job — to play his son Ryan Ninow this season.
With three weeks remaining in the season, Hamilton accepted a job to be an executive for a seafood exporting company in Chile owned by Ninow. Hamilton served his LDS mission in Chile. After accepting the job, Hamilton said he told Ninow he couldn't accept any payment until he'd been working for a month.
"I just didn't want people to misconstrue my relationship with Fred," said Hamilton, who said Ninow's son only touched the ball eight times this year. "If I was going to take money to play a kid he would've touched the ball a lot more than eight times."
As for being accused of withholding letters from his players from college football coaches, he laughs.
"I had four football weight-training classes. The letters were always placed in a basket on my desk. When I'd see the kids I'd say you have letters. Anybody who wanted their letters could come get their letters," said Hamilton.
Hamilton is back in Utah this week to be with his wife and kids for the holidays. He's still working out the logistics of moving them all down to Chile in January.