PROVO — One of the most successful and beloved high school football coaches remains at the school he loves thanks to a meeting with his principal the support of hundreds of community members.
"I believe in Coach Louis Wong," said Stephen Covey, best-selling author and parent to three Timpview football players. "He is so much more than just a football coach. He represents Timpview and he stands for excellence. He is as fine a man and leader as I know."
He finished his address with a statement from former BYU head coach LaVell Edwards which said he has the highest regard for Wong and his leadership ability.
See video of Covey's full address here.
The Provo School Board met Tuesday to discuss a new policy governing fundraising and donations made to and for the benefit of public schools. Hundreds of people packed the boardroom to show support for Wong. Many feared he was going to lose his job over the issue.
Wong met with Timpview principal Dr. Todd McKee before the meeting and apparently worked out any issues. McKee told the standing-room only crowd, "We're committed to keeping Coach Wong at Timpview."
The crowd stood, applauded and cheered. An emotional Wong said the show of support was humbling.
"I think there was a good understanding between me and the new principal," Wong said afterward. "He and I had to understand that we could work together. We could change maybe some of the culture at Timpview. It's a great culture. The perception may have been that football dominates the culture. For all intents and purposes, we've been successful. As a person I need to look at myself, my staff … we want to build a complete Timpview … I think we can do that with my help and the help of Dr. McKee. We're learning that change is necessary."
Even Wong wasn't sure how the district's decision to institute fundraising guidelines ended with him fighting for his job.
"I'm not clear on what happened as far as things that happened that were out of my control," he said. "I've always done what I've always done … I was left on my own. I feel we've done things the right way."
The impetus for the new policy was the massive fundraising effort by the football program to build a new fitness facility on the school's campus. A committee made up of community members was formed in April, and they researched fundraising guidelines for public schools throughout Utah and surrounding states.
"We felt like it was disregarded completely," said committee member Mitzi Collins, of the research and work done by the group. She said they hoped to come up with guidelines that encouraged philanthropy and respected donor intent.
"We thought we should try to say yes when we could," she said.
Parents, former and current players, business leaders and fellow coaches spoke about Wong's impact, which reaches far beyond the football field.
"It would be a detriment to our community if Coach Wong isn't the coach at Timpview," said Provo head coach Sia Pope. "It's a detriment to this valley.."
Former BYU running back Harvey Unga said Wong had taught him "invaluable lessons including love and perseverance."
See video of Unga's full account here.
Parent Tracy Rawle said he donated to the program and then received a call from the district questioning him about it.
He called the inquiry "sneaky and misleading" and chastised officials for the way they've handled this situation. He said donors should be thanked not harassed.
"That just isn't right," he said.
Wong, who is 77-10 as a head coach with four state titles, said he is looking forward to being part of the solution. McKee took over the Timpview principal's job in July of this year. He declined to comment on the issue after the meeting, but Wong said he was confident the two could work together to resolve any issues.
"We'll work hard to put some of our selfishness aside to do what's best for kids," he said.
Wong said he's never had any guidance on fundraising efforts.
"We definitely need some guidelines," he said. "I did my best. I worked my hardest to do what was right. Was it done correctly? My perception was that everything I did was right and proper. But we need checks and balances. We'll change and move forward."