HIGHLAND — About three dozen people gathered Wednesday night to discuss how they might persuade the Alpine School District to reconsider its decision not to renew the coaching contract of head football coach Tony McGeary.
McGeary resigned his coaching position on Monday morning after principal Chip Koop told him last week that he would not renew his coaching contract next year.
"Coaching is an honor and a privilege and a thankless job," McGeary wrote in a statement he sent to the Deseret News Wednesday. "It has been my life's work and I love the boys and feel like Lone Peak football is about more than winning. My decision to resign is because I did not want to cause any strain or hurt to the Lone Peak football program. I wanted to make sure our team, students and this program continues to be successful and to assure that Lone Peak students and team are not harmed."
Parents who gathered at the home of Howard Hannemann said they were frustrated that a few parents could persuade the school that McGeary was in some way unethical or dishonest.
"I think it's sick and disgusting that you can defame somebody's honor and character just because your son didn't get to play in a football game," said Stefanie Richards, who has two sons who play football at Lone Peak. "The lessons in football aren't always about putting your kid on the field. So what if your son has to sit on the bench, if you team him life lessons with a coach like Tony."
In December, about 20 parents filed a complaint with the district that made a number of allegations against McGeary, which the district investigated before deciding not to renew his contract.
While district officials cannot comment on the situation because it is a personnel matter, there were two main problems raised by the parents who complained in December.
The Under Armour contract
Coach McGeary signed a three-year sponsorship deal with Under Armour in February 2012. That deal offered $6,000 rebates to the program and 40 percent off on shoes and apparel. In exchange, student athletes were asked to purchase Under Armour clothing and gear from Universal Athletics.
McGeary was later told by district officials that the district's attorney or business administrator had to approve any kind of sponsorship deal, something he told representatives of Universal Athletics about the same time he signed the contract.
In that email exchange obtained through GRAMA, McGeary informed Universal Athletic representatives that the district would not allow him to enter into the agreement.
"I guess our attorney said I need to get approval from my administration to sign a contract," he wrote on Feb. 9, 2012. "So I may need you to do a presentation with him also? Sorry, things are changing with us running the funds through school now? Tony."
The representative answered, "Tony, If you want we can tear up the signed agreement, and just do a handshake agreement if that's easier for you. Otherwise I'm happy to meet with whoever."
McGeary then said, "Okay, that would be easier and less hassle."
And the response was, "OK It's torn up We will just use it as reference ."
Alpine School District public relations manager Rhonda Bromley said the district only recognizes one contract since it examined the issue last year, and that's for Lone Peak's basketball program.
"If there is a contract, someone thinks they have, it is not recognized by the Alpine School District," Bromley said. "The expectation of every employee in the district would be to follow the proper procedure."
Parents who complained to the district in December said they were told that they had to buy Under Armour gear in order to participate.
"At a parent meeting, Coach McGeary made it very apparent that this was mandatory, that we were under a contract and not to wear anything visible that wasn't Under Armour brand," said a parent who talked to the Deseret News on the condition of anonymity.
But parents who met Wednesday night said they never felt forced to buy Under Armour gear, and in fact, some admitted that they did not.
"I didn't feel it was mandatory," said Richards. "I felt like he was trying to get us perks as a school. But this isn't about money. It's not about contracts."
Instead, she said it's about parents whose children didn't get to play and parents who felt McGeary needed to work harder to get students scholarships.
"We look like a bunch of pretentious parents up here, and it's embarrassing," she said.
The parents aren't sure what they will do, but they hope to offer support and an alternative view of the man who resigned because of questions about ethical issues on Monday.
If they can't persuade the school to hire him back as head football coach, they intend to try to clear his name.
The Under Armour contract isn't the only issue McGeary faced.
The CEU camp
There could be several issues with the CEU camp. First of all, such a camp cannot be mandatory, and nowhere on the documents given to parents did it say the camp was voluntary. The camp was called "Lone Peak Football Camp" and parents were asked to pay $250 to CEU.
State law forbids public employees from using their position to profit personally, and in this case, McGeary was paid $5,735 from CEU.
State employees are forbidden from requiring participation in a private activity. They're also forbidden from benefitting from their position as public employees.
Even parents who support McGeary said they didn't know he was paid with that entry fee.
Bromley said she couldn't comment on this specific case, but in general coaches have to make it extremely clear that a camp like McGeary ran is optional.
"There is nothing in policy or state law that says a coach can't get paid for running a camp," she said, "but that has to be distinguishable from his role as coach."
Bromley said Alpine is currently reviewing the kind of training coaches have when it comes to the state's ethics policies. Once those new policies are approved, the district will offer new training for coaches, which she expects to occur in the next few weeks.
Parents also discussed how to help students deal with the issues that have caused a rift among the players. Some parents said their boys have been threatened or harassed as their parents complained about McGeary. The parents said they hoped to be able to convince the players to leave the issue to the adults to resolve.