Dayton Public Schools was wrong about the central fact in its recent court fight with the Ohio High School Athletic Association, the district admitted Thursday, meaning Dunbar’s boys basketball team was improperly reinstated to the postseason tournament in March, eliminating two other teams.
As a result, Dayton announced in a joint statement with the OHSAA that Dunbar’s boys basketball team is banned from 2019 postseason, DPS’ existing districtwide probation from a football scandal is extended through June 2020, and Dunbar High School’s probation is extended through 2022.
DPS also will pay OHSAA’s court costs stemming from its March lawsuit against the group. Superintendent Elizabeth Lolli said she does not know exactly what that amount will be, but she believes, based on information from the OHSAA, that it will be less than $10,000.
“We owe an apology to Bishop Fenwick High School, Thurgood Marshall High School and the OHSAA,” Lolli said. “We have taken corrective measures to address the situation. We appreciate the OHSAA’s cooperation and compassion during this situation. We know that removal of Dayton Public Schools’ membership in the OHSAA was an option.”
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On Jan. 10, a wild brawl erupted at the end of the junior varsity game between Dunbar and Thurgood Marshall. Many players left the bench — a violation requiring a two-game suspension — but Dunbar never followed through on suspending its bench players, meaning they were technically ineligible.
On Feb. 23, one of those bench players participated for a few minutes in Dunbar’s varsity blowout win over West Carrollton to open the postseason tournament. Five days later, the OHSAA disqualified Dunbar from the tournament for using that ineligible player, and put Thurgood Marshall, the team Dunbar had most recently beaten, into their place.
DPS sued the OHSAA on March 2 to put Dunbar back in the tournament, and on March 6 used video to argue the player in question could never be seen going onto the court during the Jan. 10 fight. Montgomery County Common Pleas Judge Michael Krumholtz said there wasn’t evidence to support OHSAA’s move. He reinstated Dunbar in the tournament, taking Thurgood Marshall out.
Dunbar’s boys defeated Middletown Fenwick on March 7, then lost to Woodward in the district final March 10.
New video evidence
OHSAA spokesman Tim Stried said that a few days after Dunbar lost, “multiple people” presented video and photo evidence to OHSAA showing that the player in question actually did participate in the fight. Lolli said Thursday it was cell phone video from multiple people who had been in the stands at the Jan. 10 game.
That means OHSAA had been right that the player was ineligible and Dunbar should have been ousted from the tournament.
Fenwick Athletic Director Michael Coleman expressed frustration Thursday.
“Everyone knows that we got the bad end of the stick,” Coleman said. “This was really unfair for our kids and community, especially since we can’t go back to what the scenario should have been. Everyone involved could have handled this situation better.”
Neither OHSAA nor DPS would identify the people who presented the better video. This news organization requested that video under public records law, but Lolli said Thursday that DPS officials merely viewed the video with OHSAA staff, and do not have a copy of it. Stried said OHSAA also does not have copies of that evidence, saying individuals showed the videos and photos to Lolli and OHSAA Executive Director Dan Ross at a meeting.
Next steps at DPS
Lolli said embattled Athletic Director Mark Baker has been working on a redesign of the athletic department. Asked whether that meant DPS was committed to Baker as athletic director going forward, Lolli sidestepped the question.
She did say “some personnel changes” will be implemented for the next school year, but would not go into detail. Asked later whether she expected to fire anyone, Lolli said no. That would appear to mean Baker will remain employed, as his athletic director contract runs through June 2019.
But coaches and the athletic directors for individual schools work on one-year “supplemental contracts” that are up for review each year. The district could replace some of those staffers without technically firing anyone. Lolli did not comment on that process, adding that it was “yet to be determined” whether Dunbar head coach Chuck Taylor would return for another season.
“We’re making sure that the correct personnel are in place for our athletic program, and the correct expectations are in place,” Lolli said. “We’re making sure we follow the OHSAA rules and regulations as they are written. We will be vigilant in that effort to make sure that the sanctions do not continue to get piled on to the Dayton Public Schools because of infractions that we make.”
Ross praised Lolli but emphasized the need for compliance.
“For the last month, this has been an effort from both sides working together — the OHSAA and Dayton Public Schools,” Ross said. “I commend Dr. Lolli for working hard to do the right thing here and get to the truth. … It has been a pleasure working with her, and we trust that nothing like this will happen again at Dayton Public Schools.”