Lone Peak parents offer support to former coach amid administration changes
Ravell Call, Deseret News
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.”
The district responded to Hall’s complaint by referring Hall to the district’s policy on training. Hall said parents who support McGeary are considering legal action.
McGeary has still been teaching at the school, but the Deseret News learned this week that he will be transferred to a junior high in Lehi, a transfer he did not request but has accepted. Koop will move to the district offices to work in student services, while the school’s athletic director requested a change in duties because he wants to coach the youth athletic teams of his young children, Bromley said.
McGeary issued a statement two days after his resignation explaining his decision to resign and insisting that he never tried to circumvent the rules.
"My decision to resign is because I did not want to cause any strain or hurt to the Lone Peak Football program," McGeary wrote in a statement on Feb. 27. "I have worked tirelessly with my administration to make sure that I was following all policies and have done everything that has been asked. I am appreciative of the support I've received."
Hall said the parents who support McGeary don't feel they have had the same consideration from the district as officials have given those who complained about McGeary. Parents who complained about McGeary said he exerted control over the booster club account and tried to conceal the identity of big-money donors from the district.
But Hall oversaw the program’s booster club account and said McGeary specifically avoided handling money, leaving that to the school’s financial secretary. He said there were not issues with the program’s finances.
Bromley said that despite its recent troubles, she is looking forward to taking over at Lone Peak next year.
“I was actually an assistant principal there,” she said. “I know the community, it’s a wonderful school, and I’m very excited.”