The Dunbar High School boys basketball mess exploded on Wednesday with the team being removed from the state tournament, but court documents track the problem from the initial brawl Jan. 10 through a variety of state notifications, email snafus and confusion over which players were even involved.
Here’s a look at several key moments between Dayton Public Schools and the Ohio High School Athletic Association, taken from court documents filed by DPS on Friday:
Wed., Jan. 10 — the fight
With 4.4 seconds remaining in a junior varsity game between Dunbar and Thurgood Marshall, a Dunbar player committed a hard foul and a fight ensued. Multiple players left the bench, some spectators left their seats, and there was a wild scene on the court.
The rest of the game was canceled, and according to multiple parties, game officials told the varsity coaches that no players from the JV game could participate in the about-to-start varsity game – a penalty generally tied to ejections.
Jan. 11/12 — notification
An official OHSAA “game report notice – ejection” is emailed to first-year Dunbar Athletic Director Quiona Boffman on Jan. 11. It includes the facts in the Jan. 10 paragraphs above, but does not name specific players as being ejected.
On Jan. 12, the same notice is resent from the OHSAA portal, but the “reported person” is now listed as the Dunbar player wearing #22. The notice says Boffman is required to respond to OHSAA via the OHSAA website by Jan. 19.
Fri., Jan. 26 — Dunbar response
Boffman attempts to send an email to the OHSAA’s email@example.com email, an automated address that generates game report notices and does not receive mail. (A test email that this news organization sent to that address March 2 generated an “undeliverable” reply in less than a minute.)
In her email, Boffman wrote, “The student that were directly involved was not wearing number #22. I have called OHSAA to try to confirm the correct player information and was not successful. Please let me know what my next should be.”
Fri., Feb. 9 — OHSAA outreach
Ben Ferree, assistant director of officiating and sport management for OHSAA, emails Boffman, saying OHSAA has not received a response to the ejection report from over four weeks earlier and asking for a reply.
Boffman responds 45 minutes later, explaining her failed email, and repeating her concern that the wrong player was identified, saying it was #20 instead. She asks, “Can you please assist me getting the documentation corrected?”
Thu., Feb. 22 — Dunbar fined
Ferree sends another email to Boffman, this time copying Dunbar Principal Crystal Phillips. He says he has not received any response to the Jan. 12 online ejection report, not mentioning Boffman’s Feb. 9 reply. Ferree says that results in a $150 fine. He also asks for more information: “I still need to know the number of students identified as participating in the fight or coming off the bench during the fight and the dates of the contests they served their suspensions.”
Fri., Feb. 23 — tournament opener
Dunbar defeats West Carrollton 84-26. According to its court complaint, a player who was on the Jan. 10 JV bench, referred to only as “John Doe,” plays three minutes near the end of the game.
Mon., Feb. 26 — Baker brought in
Ferree sends another email, this time to Boffman, Phillips, and DPS districtwide athletic director Mark Baker at 9:24 a.m. He again asks for confirmation “that the ejected players from the (fight) served their two-game suspension. We also need the names of those you identified as coming off the bench to participate in the fight.” Ferree says the worst-case scenario, if one of those athletes played in the varsity tournament game, is Dunbar being removed from the tournament.
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Just over an hour later, Baker emails Phillips and Boffman (copying his supervisor and district spokeswoman Marsha Bonhart), and tells them to be sure to respond to Ferree that day. “OHSAA need to be ensured that the all players served their required penalty for ejections,” Baker writes, suggesting they send copies of scorebook pages as proof. “Also send the required report that was done after the game, if it has not been done,” Baker writes, referring to an action that had been due 5 ½ weeks earlier.
At 5:53 p.m., Boffman replies to Ferree, copying the other OHSAA and DPS officials who had received his email that morning. She mentions her Jan. 26 and Feb. 9 attempts to follow up via email, then goes on to say it was #23 (not #22 or #20) who was involved in the altercation, adding that he was suspended. She makes no mention of other players, or of a response to the game notice on the OHSAA portal, finishing with, “If there is any other information needed, please let me know how I can assist.”
In a 7:30 p.m. tournament game, Dunbar defeats Thurgood Marshall, 66-54, to advance to the sectional title game and Middletown Fenwick.
Wed., Feb. 28 — OHSAA penalty
OHSAA executive director Dan Ross emails a formal notice to Dunbar Principal Crystal Phillips, ruling that Dunbar is out of the tournament. Ross says that the day before, OHSAA finally saw video of the Jan. 10 altercation, identified seven Dunbar players who left the bench during a fight, and therefore were subject to a two-game suspension under national high school rules and OHSAA regulations.
Ross wrote that since none of those players sat out a JV game, they were ineligible from that point on, requiring forfeits of the games they played in. When “John Doe” played in a tournament game, that required a forfeit, and elimination of Dunbar from the postseason tournament.
The OHSAA places Thurgood Marshall back into the tournament in Sunday’s sectional final game in Dunbar’s place against Fenwick.
Thu., March 1 — DPS objects
Acting Superintendent Elizabeth Lolli will not go into detail at an evening press conference, but says: “We take exception to the fact that our students are not playing on Sunday. And we take exception to the fact that we were ruled in the way that we were.”
Fri., March 2 — DPS sues
In the morning, Lolli says all of the seven efforts OHSAA made to contact DPS were automated emails. Later in the day, OHSAA spokesman Tim Stried points out that the last three contacts were increasingly seriously worded personal notes from Ferree to a variety of DPS staff.
DPS files suit in Montgomery County Common Pleas Court seeking a restraining order and injunction to put Dunbar back in the tournament. Sunday’s Thurgood-Fenwick game is postponed until Wednesday, pending a Tuesday court hearing.
In its court filings, DPS argues that “John Doe” did not engage in the altercation and left the court to go to the locker room to prepare for the varsity game. Elsewhere in the complaint, they say, “OHSAA failed to consider that one reasonable explanation for ‘John Doe’ leaving the bench area could have to been to get out of the way,” since the melee occurred in front of the Dunbar bench.