HIGHLAND — Lone Peak head football coach Tony McGeary submitted his letter of resignation to school and district officials Monday morning after five years at the helm of the Knights' very successful program.
When contacted about his resignation, the coach declined to comment, saying that he wanted attention to be on the school's undefeated, nationally ranked basketball team, which began its quest for a state title in the 5A playoffs Monday night.
After parents who support McGeary sent a letter to the media alleging he was being blamed for financial issues that were the responsibility of the school's administration, he sent the Deseret News a copy of his resignation letter. Those parents later told the Deseret News by email that they'd been asked to cease their efforts on his behalf.
His letter alluded to financial issues, but focused mostly on what he'd built and the lives he'd affected.
"I am resigning as head football coach at Lone Peak High School," he wrote. "I appreciate the opportunity I have had to be here and have enjoyed every minute of it. I am proud of the record that I was able to accomplish in the last 5 years (51-12), that we made it to the play offs all 5 years and earned a State Championship, sending close to 30 players onto the next level.
"I believe I have handled every aspect regarding finances for our program with the utmost integrity and character," he continued. "I am exiting this program in the black, and have been instrumental in the improvements to our facilities."
Alpine School District spokeswoman Rhonda Bromley said McGeary had a meeting with Lone Peak principal Chip Koop last week to address some of the issues raised by parents in December.
"They did review the program, including finances, and the decision was made not to renew coach McGeary's contract," she said. "There are a lot of allegations, a lot of rumors going around. But this review is something that happens every year, between every principal and all of the coaches and club advisers." Bromley said each school's administration reviews the program and makes a decision on whether or not to keep the adviser or coach. A principal can choose not to renew a coaching contract for any reason — or no reason at all, she said.
"Coaching and being an adviser is an at-will, year-to-year deal and nothing that is tied to the (teaching) contract," she said. "He is still a teacher at Lone Peak High. … The bottom line is we respect his decision to resign. He did choose to resign; it wasn't a forced resignation."
She did acknowledge a ground-swell of support for McGeary in the hours after he announced his resignation to his players on Monday.
"They're wanting to fight for him," she said.
Several parents sent a letter to current and former players, asking supporters to sign a petition and make their views known to school and district officials.
"Coach McGeary found himself in an impossible situation after proving his worth and values by becoming the first ever coach to win a football state championship for Lone Peak High School," they wrote. "Without the support of the current administration and district, he knew he had to take the high road and comply with the forced resignation without a fight. With his livelihood threatened, he had to think of his most beloved students, and most importantly his family."
It was parents who brought the problems to the district's attention.
In December, nearly two dozen parents were part of a complaint filed with the district alleging a number of financial issues, including pay received for a summer game at CEU and a contract with Under Armour that required parents to buy only that brand of product for their sons. That type of contract can only be entered into by the Alpine District's business administrator, and Bromley said he had not signed a sponsorship deal for Lone Peak football. That contract, however, did not benefit McGeary personally, as any rebates were given to the school.
The district conducted an investigation into the allegations and told the parents it would address any problems it found directly with McGeary.
Two parents told the Deseret News that they were told they couldn't wear new cleats of another brand, and coaches couldn't really tell them what the benefits of the contract were.
"We would get a pair of socks, if we signed a contract to get a 40 percent discount," said one father, who wished to remain anonymous. "We did question it. He said there was a good chance of getting new jerseys or new uniforms. … It was a mandatory thing, and we just didn't even question it. We wanted our kids to play."