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Published: Thursday, April 06, 2017 @ 5:14 PM
Updated: Friday, April 07, 2017 @ 4:15 PM
Dayton — UPDATE @ 2:34 p.m. (April 7):
Dayton Public Schools released a statement following Thursday’s announcement from the OHSAA:
“Dayton Public Schools administrators conducted a full internal investigation following the allegations of wrongdoing that occurred during a football game between Dunbar Early College High School and Belmont High School on October 28, 2016.
Immediate action was taken following the game and reprimands were issued to the appropriate parties. The Dayton Public School district does not take these issues lightly, especially when our students are impacted. The ineligible player should not have played as instructed by administrators. We are taking specific measures to ensure that this does not occur again.
The finding of OHSAA draws necessary attention to our need to ensure compliance and proper training in ethics and sportsmanship for all Dayton Public Schools' coaches and administrators.
At the heart of this unfortunate finding are our student athletes who deserve the most honest and competent leadership we can provide them. I assure Superintendent Ross, OHSAA, and the Dayton community, of my firm commitment to putting students first, and providing those students with highly qualified academic and athletic leadership.”
As a public reprimand for a lack of administrative responsibility and institutional control, the Ohio High School Athletic Association placed all Dayton Public Schools boys and girls athletic teams on immediate three-year probation Thursday. The district also was fined $10,000 and selected administrators were ordered to attend compliance meetings in Columbus and new level training.
The OHSAA ruled its bylaw 3-1-1 — concerning administrative control — had been violated during a Week 10 football game last season between Dunbar and Belmont at Welcome Stadium. Commissioner Dr. Dan Ross outlined the punishments.
Nov. 2016:Dunbar won’t fight forfeits
The probation will be lifted and $2,500 will be refunded if no other similar violations of OHSAA bylaws occur within the first two years. Affected are all six DPS high schools: Belmont, Dunbar, Meadowdale, Ponitz, Stivers and Thurgood Marshall.
“It strikes at the heart of what we believe high school sports are all about and that’s teaching life lessons and the things you want them to learn as citizens when they’re out of school,” Ross said. “For us, it was reprehensible that anything like that would be suggested.”
DPS director of athletics Mark Baker had been accused of instructing Dunbar to lose the game. Had that happened, it was hoped both Dunbar and Belmont would qualify for the playoffs. Instead, it caused a catastrophic fallout of forfeits, a resignation, a reshuffling of playoff-qualifying teams and launched an OHSAA investigation.
It was an unprecedented breach of high school sportsmanship. A strong message — and OHSAA rulings — to deter that from happening again had been expected.
“I definitely feel exonerated and I’m glad that it’s over with,” Dunbar football coach Darran Powell said. “Hopefully, we can move forward and never come across a situation like this again. I’m happy for the kids and I’m ready to get the season started. We’ve got a lot to prove.”
The rulings mean all City League athletes can continue to compete in regular-season and postseason play.
“We believed the youngsters involved were not responsible; it was the decisions of adults,” Ross said. “This is not something you ever want a youngster to be put in the middle of. … You never, ever expect anything like this to happen in a high school event.”
According to Dunbar assistant coach Alfred Powell, at halftime of the game Baker relayed instructions for Dunbar to lose. That resulted in three successive and bizarre third-quarter plays in which Dunbar appeared to purposely lose yardage. Referees halted play after the ball was tossed to a Belmont lineman.
Coaches of both teams huddled at midfield, where officials said the contest would be called if the integrity of the game were further undermined. There were no more similar incidents. Dunbar won handily and appeared to have qualified for the Division IV, Region 16 playoffs with a 9-1 record.
However, the OHSAA required Dunbar to forfeit both Week 9-10 games for using an academically ineligible player. That allowed Belmont to qualify for the D-III, Region 12 playoffs and knocked Princeton (D-II), Piqua (D-III) and Dunbar out of qualifying.
Dunbar coaches insisted Baker said the Dunbar player was eligible prior to the Belmont game, then said he wasn’t at halftime. That led to the proposal of Dunbar losing on purpose.
“I believe the system works,” Alfred Powell said. “Our staff has been vindicated.”
None of the Dunbar football coaches has been retained; interviews will be held next week. DPS superintendent Rhonda Corr previously released a statement that said an internal investigation determined that “Mark Baker did not instruct Dunbar to lose or forfeit the Week 10 football game to Belmont.”
Dunbar boys basketball coach Pete Pullen resigned as the school’s AD in mid-November. No football playoff games were held at Welcome Stadium last fall, a direct result of OHSAA’s investigation. Baker and Corr did not respond to requests for comment.