Lone Peak parents offer support to former coach amid administration changes

Published: Saturday, April 13 2013 5:20 p.m. MDT

Football players, students and parents from Lone Peak High School meet with officials at the Alpine School District offices after many walked from their school in support of their former football coach Tony McGeary, Monday, March 4, 2013. At front is Jacob Orlob.

Ravell Call, Deseret News

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HIGHLAND — Lone Peak High School announced a new head football coach last week, but that isn’t the only personnel change in recent weeks.

The school also has a new principal, assistant principal over athletics and athletic director.

And while it may appear those changes are connected to the resignation of Tony McGeary, the program’s head football coach for five years, the school’s new principal insists they are all unrelated.

“I can absolutely say that it had nothing to do with the things that have gone on,” said Rhonda Bromley, an assistant to Alpine Superintendent Vern Henshaw, who will take over as principal in June. “It is ironic that all of those changes happened when all of the controversy is going on. … I know that usually one plus one equals two, but in this case, it really doesn’t.”

Mike Mower was announced as Lone Peak's new head coach on Friday. He has worked as an assistant to McGeary for the last three years.

McGeary, who owned a 51-12 record and a state title at Lone Peak, submitted his resignation on Monday, Feb. 25, and then told his players he wouldn't be back next fall. Bromley said McGeary resigned about a week after a meeting with the school's principal, Chip Koop, in which the coach was told his coaching contract would not be renewed for another year. In Utah, all coaching contracts are year-to-year and the district declined to give reasons for Koop’s decision.

The principal’s conversation with McGeary came after about 20 parents met with school officials to discuss concerns about the program, including the way a summer football camp was handled and an apparel contract with Under Armour. Bromley reiterated that neither one of those things is inherently inappropriate, but both require coaches to follow certain protocol with district officials. For example, the apparel contracts for any school or program must be approved by the district’s business administrator. McGeary’s was not, and while some parents told the Deseret News they felt compelled to buy Under Armour gear, others said they felt it was optional.

Last week, a parent and treasurer of the football program’s booster club, Michael Hall, submitted a response to a complaint filed by another parent in December.

The original parent complaint detailed how student athletes and their parents felt required to participate in the summer program and were not told how coaches were compensated for their time at the camp. The camp was also operated outside the school, parents alleged, in violation of district and state rules.

The response, submitted to the district last week, detailed how parents always felt informed, never felt forced and allege that the original parents complained because they felt their children didn’t receive enough playing time.

Hall felt the school and district didn’t adequately train coaches and said that McGeary had approval for everything, including participation in the CEU summer football camp.

“(The camp) is not something that is wrong to do, to take the team there,” said Bromley. “If they do that, the finances have to go through the school, just for transparency rules.”

She said discussing specific allegations as they relate to McGeary or administrators is something the district can’t do. She did say they have increased the amount of training coaches and administrators participate in as a result of this situation.

“We feel like it’s not something you could overdo,” she said. “It’s done at the district and school level and with every parent who is helping with the booster club. We did add a checklist that coaches and (volunteers) sign off on saying they understand, and that is something new.”