New donor policy ends the Scott Cate Era at Cottonwood

Published: Thursday, June 28 2012 9:00 p.m. MDT

Alabama-bound quarterback Cooper Bateman meeting Cottonwood's new head coach Greg Croshaw Thursday night in the Cottonwood High auditorium.

Amy Donaldson, Deseret News

MURRAY — Cooper Bateman has listened to Scott Cate preach about how football is actually teaching the 17-year-old how to succeed in business more times than he can count.

Now the Cottonwood High quarterback is relying on the lessons he learned from those discussions as he navigates losing Cate as a coach.

The Granite School District's decision to amend a rule governing donations from private citizens ended Cate's 13 years as the Colts' offensive coordinator on Monday. The policy, which the Granite School Board will vote on in final form at their next meeting July 10, precludes donors who give more than $499 over the course of a season or year from serving in a coaching, supervising or organizing capacity or "exerting any other direct or indirect influence over students, teams or any other school program or function."

Parents who gathered a half hour before a meeting with newly hired head coach Greg Croshaw were disappointed that no district official was on hand to answer questions about the rationale for the change.

"This discussion has been going on for quite a while," Mike Fraser, assistant superintendent over school accountability service, told the Deseret News Thursday morning. "The thing that got most of our attention right now, were those things happening at Timpview High School."

Fraser, who was a football coach at Granger and Hunter High Schools as well as a principal at Hunter, said high school athletics has changed dramatically in the last decade as boosters have offered more financial support than educational administrators ever anticipated or experienced in the past. The audits of Timpview's football program raised a lot of questions for administrators — as well as coaches — and it prompted the state to audit a number of programs statewide, the results of which are not complete yet.

In the Granite District, officials examined how people donate, some of which will change slightly, and how those donors should be allowed to interact with the schools and programs they support.

Fraser said it would be easy to turn a blind eye to what happened at Timpview, but instead, they're hoping to learn from the situation and subsequent investigations.

"This keeps the district out of harms way, as it protects the people who are making decision about kids and the opportunities they have," said district spokesman Ben Horsley.

That's the change that ended Cate's affiliation with Cottonwood — a school he chose to help because "it was my neighborhood school," he said Thursday afternoon.

While district officials say the rule changes protect the integrity of how and why students make teams or earn playing time, Cate said having him pay for the needs of the program, which both he and the district estimate to be somewhere between $4 and $5 million, actually gave coaches more protection.

"Freedom from undue influence is what I hoped to give the coaches," said Cate, whose three children graduated from Cottonwood. "I took all of the influence out of high school sports. We didn't need to suck up to parents or fund-raise with businesses."

Cate said the unwillingness of public education administrators to pay coaches a reasonable salary, but then expect them to coach year-round, fund-raise and help student athletes with the recruiting process is hypocritical.

"Somebody has to step up and say this is important to our community," Cate said. "Or we say what it is. You know what, parents, throw a ball out in August and don't expect anything else."