SOUTH JORDAN — The resignation of another successful high school coach is linked to allegations of financial improprieties and verbal abuse of players, the Deseret News has learned.
Bingham High boys basketball coach Mark Dubach recently ended his 22-year coaching career, then days later resigned from his teaching position mid-quarter. Dubach’s resignation as a teacher occurred after school and district officials opened an investigation into whether checks written by parents for a gym rental were cashed into an account that isn’t affiliated with the school.
South Jordan police confirmed they are also investigating the case. Dubach, however, says the incident is all a misunderstanding and he simply resigned to give the program a “fresh start.”
Dubach is the fourth high-profile high school coach to resign after allegations of financial missteps were discovered or reported.
Timpview head football coach Louis Wong resigned both his coaching and teaching positions in May of 2012 after an audit revealed issues with the way fundraising money was handled by the coach and the school. Lone Peak baseball coach Mike LaHargoue resigned in the summer of 2011, just as an audit of his program was initiated by district officials. Lone Peak football coach Tony McGeary recently resigned after issues surrounding a team camp and a sponsorship contract with an Under Armour dealer were found to violate district policy.
The investigation into Timpview's football program prompted changes statewide in the way school officials handle donations, booster accounts and fundraising efforts. The Utah State Office of Education is also scheduled to enact a new rule governing these activities later this month.
The financial issue at Bingham High came to light when parents Shawn and Annette Morley met with Bingham High Principal Tom Hicks on Feb. 28. Their conversation was a follow-up to a previous meeting with Dubach and a dozen parents who confronted the coach and asked him to resign, alleging he engaged in verbal abuse, including name-calling and swearing.
For several years, Shawn Morley said he had an arrangement with Dubach that allowed his daughter’s Jr. Jazz team to rent part of the Bingham High gym on Monday nights. Morley, however, learned that the team had been kicked out of the gym because they weren’t on the schedule — even though Morley had directly given Dubach $800 in two checks.
Morley said Dubach told him this year he’d have to “handle (the rental) differently, as a donation to the boys basketball team.” Most parents of the Jr. Jazz players paid the Morleys $35 and Shawn Morley gave Dubach a $765 check on Dec. 19, 2012, and wrote “gym rental/donation” on the check. One other parent wrote a $35 check at the same time, for the same reason. Both checks were made out to “Bingham Miners Club,” per Dubach’s instructions, according to Morley.
Both checks were cashed in a non-school account, the Jordan School District confirmed. Neither the district nor the school could say whether it was Dubach’s personal checking account.
“I assumed (Bingham Miners Club) was the school’s booster club for boys basketball,” Morley said, adding that Dubach told him he wanted to get the money before the Miners headed to a tournament in California so he could use the money to buy meals for the boys.
Hicks said there are no outside accounts for any program affiliated with Bingham athletics or activities — including booster accounts.
The Morleys went to Hicks for answers after Dubach wouldn’t explain why the Jr. Jazz team wasn’t allowed to use the gym.
“I had parents looking at me as if I took money because I didn’t really rent the gym,” Morley said. “So I was caught between a rock and a hard place. … I would never have questioned it if we’d been on the schedule.”
Morley explained the situation to the principal and provided a copy of the check to Hicks.
“I said ‘I have this check I used for gym rental and it appears it was cashed in a non-Bingham account,’” Morley said. “(Hicks) said, ‘You may not want to go any further with this.’ I didn’t know where he was coming from so I said, ‘No, we do want to go further. This man should not be coaching, and I want an accounting.'"
Hicks warned them the check could affect Dubach’s teaching position at the school.
“We were upset,” Morley said. Annette Morley added: “We don’t want to destroy anybody’s livelihood or destroy anybody’s family. But in the same sense, we’re not responsible for his actions. His actions caused this. He cashed the check. We thought it was going into a Bingham account, but it didn’t go into a Bingham account. He did all of that, not us.”
Dubach acknowledged cashing the check in what he referred to as a “personal business account” and a “club account.” But he said the check was a misunderstanding.
“I took a check that I believed was a donation into my club account and used it to buy food for the kids (on a Bingham basketball team trip to California in December),” Dubach said. “And I have all of those receipts. The question is that the Morleys believed it was for gym rental. There was a miscommunication between myself and the Morleys, and I feel horrible for it. I thought it was a donation. He was always welcome to use the gym free.”
Hicks said only the school district can authorize use of the school’s gyms. The principal said he immediately turned the Morleys’ check over to district officials.
“Anything that is reported to me that I think is inappropriate, I act on,” he said. “I’m not an administrator that sweeps things under the rug and doesn’t deal with issues.”
The district then took over the case — for a day.
“We began an investigation when a parental complaint brought this to our attention,” said district spokeswoman Sandy Riesgraf. “We immediately contacted the coach himself, (and) we contacted the police because we felt it was a police matter.”
Dubach resigned his teaching position the next day. His resignation ended the district’s probe.
“We have no authority to investigate,” Riesgraf said. “We accepted his resignation and at that point, it’s out of our hands. We’re cooperating with the police as much as we can.”
Utah State Office of Education officials confirmed that they will meet on Friday to decide whether to investigate allegations that could jeopardize Dubach’s teaching license.
Alleged verbal abuse
None of the financial allegations would have surfaced if parents hadn’t been concerned about reports that Dubach was verbally abusing team members.
Eight parents who spoke to the Deseret News — on condition of anonymity because of fears of repercussions for their sons — said Dubach at times belittled and isolated their sons. One mother said he called her son names and told him that other players didn’t like him. She claimed he also told players not to tell their parents what happened at practices and games because it would be “disloyal” to the team.
Another mother said her son was singled out as the reason for losses. “He told (my son) he doesn’t even understand why any of his teammates want to be his friend. ... This guy ripped this team to shreds,” she said.
One mother claimed Dubach, knowing her son had a difficult relationship with his father, told him his poor performance was why his father never watched him play.
One father said he felt Dubach’s methods were negative, but not abusive.
Hicks said he was aware of issues with Dubach’s coaching style but said no one came to him with allegations of verbal abuse until after the parents met with Bingham High athletic director Brad Bevan on Jan. 28.
The parents met with Bevan and Dubach after their sons on the team told them that Dubach had offered to resign following a particularly tough loss. As parents discussed the unusual proposal, they said that’s when they realized the alleged verbal abuse was more widespread.
Dubach adamantly denied any abuse.
“I did not swear,” he said. “Now I’ve slipped before in my life, but I was not aggressive with this group of kids. Society has changed, and I’ve tried to change, too. I was tougher on them. That’s really what it was, not abuse. I feel like I was tough on them to try to get the best out of them. But I always felt like I had their best interest at heart.”
Dubach, who said this is the first time in 22 years he’s faced such allegations, said some of the boys whose parents are alleging verbal abuse still hang out at his house with his son, who was a senior on the team.
“The fact that after I resigned, after I walked away, one of these (boys) is at my house. … shows I’m not the monster they made me out to be. … I really didn’t (verbally abuse any players), and I feel horrible that parents feel like I did.”
In addition to financial and verbal abuse allegations, this case also includes questions about whether a Bingham High teacher lost his football coaching job because of his involvement in the parent meeting when they asked Dubach to resign.
Andy Evans, who teaches math at Bingham, was the sophomore football coach until March 20. Evans, whose son was on the basketball team, said he was told he could no longer coach because he didn’t follow “certain professional courtesies” by “uniting” with parents instead of going to the principal with concerns about Dubach’s coaching methods.
Hicks declined to say why he chose not to renew Evans’ coaching contract but did say Evans “crossed roles” and “created additional problems.”
Other parents said their sons have suffered retribution for the parents’ decision to challenge Dubach. The Morleys said their son, who has never reported verbal abuse to them, has been ostracized. Three of the varsity basketball players’ parents said their sons were not invited to the end-of-the-year team banquet.
Hicks denied that and said everyone was invited. The three players ended up attending the event.
“Any kid that has a concern — or any parent — who needs to approach me with that concern and I will investigate and deal with it appropriately,” the principal said.
When asked why he resigned if he hasn’t been verbally abusive toward players or mismanaged basketball funds, Dubach said he felt both he and the program needed a fresh start.
“With all that’s gone on, I just felt it was best for me to move on in my career,” he said.
“They wanted a new coach. They did everything they could to get one, and I’m happy for the program and the kids. …I made a mistake. I apologize for it, and I just want to move on with my life.”
Hicks declined to specifically discuss why Dubach resigned, calling it a personnel issue. But he did explain why he couldn’t provide the parents an accounting of the money they paid or donated.
“That was funding outside of the Bingham boys basketball account,” Hicks said. “I have no accounting of anything or transactions outside of the school.”
Hicks said no parent should deliver any school-related payment to anyone but a school’s front office.
He characterized coaches handling money as “big mistakes.”
Copyright 2016, Deseret News Publishing Company