Kristin Murphy, Deseret News
SANDY — It did not surprise Alta principal Fidel Montero that a private company wanted to sponsor the Hawks' football program.
He knew successful teams were approached about sponsorship deals because he was an assistant principal at Timpview when then-head football coach Louis Wong signed a deal with Under Armour to sponsor the T-birds. That deal became part of the reason Wong had to resign and had his teaching license suspended for a year.
So when Montero took the job at Alta two years ago and found that the team's former coach had entered into a sponsorship agreement with Under Armour, he was uncomfortable. That contract promised 40 percent discounts on shoes in exchange for a commitment to wear the company's products — at all times, even at practices. The company also gave coaches a $20,000 credit that allowed them to buy gear for coaches, administrators and support staff.
Montero didn't approve the contract, nor did his current coach, but the school was honoring it when he arrived. Six months after he arrived at Alta, an audit by the Utah State Office of Education revealed problems with sponsorship deals that (a) didn't go through a bidding process and (b) offered any benefit to a coach or coaching staff, like the free apparel promised in Alta's contract.
It's important to note that previous administrations at both schools not only knew about the sponsorship deals, but they approved them.
Still Montero was bothered that one program could receive such huge benefits, but other programs went years without new uniforms.
So when that deal expired in 2012, and rather than allow the team to shop around for a better deal on its own, Montero decided to leverage the power of his successful football program to help all of the school's sports programs.
"We went to all of the coaches and asked 'What do you need?’ ” Montero said. "We selected as many sports as possible and put out an RFP (request for purchase), that said this is what we need, the quality, type, colors, everything. We wanted to try to save parents and taxpayers money, but really these are the kids' monies."
The goal was not just to help all coaches get nice uniforms and gear, but to help disadvantaged students.
Fees that students are required to pay to the school are waived by a school if a student is in the free or reduced lunch program. But costs like uniforms, camps and equipment are something families have to find a way to pay, regardless of their financial situation.
Some coaches, like Hillcrest football coach Casey Miller, have found ways to hold group fundraisers that cover the cost of all of those individual costs.
But Montero decided that if the school could get deep enough discounts on all of its apparel and gear needs, then they could use any rebates to help cover costs for students in need, as well as coaches.
"It was a very competitive bid process," he said. "We wanted to make sure everybody gets an equal amount."
Montero was bothered by what happened to Wong and felt that if there had been a better system in place, he wouldn't have found himself outside state laws.
"I saw a really good educator, teacher and human being affected by a lack of systems," he said. "I wanted to make sure our coaches are taken care of, and I wanted to make sure our students are taken care of, but I wanted to make sure we did it appropriately."
He said he realizes the burden on the families of athletes is significant and hopes this sponsorship deal can ease some of the costs.
"They're having to pay a lot of money to play," he said. "This is a step in the direction of easing that burden."
The Canyons Board of Education approved contracts with Under Armour for both Alta and Corner Canyon in Tuesday night's meeting.
"Now if we have a student who can't afford a spirit pack, we can say, 'here is our promotional money. Buy it for her,’ ” he said. "We can also buy all of our coaches shirts and sweatshirts that are just as nice as what the football coaches receive, but now we use the funds so that it's equitable for everyone."
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