Dunbar football coach Darran Powell (middle) oversees practice last season. MARC PENDLETON / STAFF

Board member says Lacking not pursuing Dunbar football position

After initially indicating he would pursue the Dunbar High School head football coach position, James Lacking has decided otherwise.

According to Dayton Public Schools board member Joe Lacey on Thursday, Lacking will submit his “non-acceptance” of the position to the board. Lacey also indicated Lacking believes former coach Darran Powell deserves the position and supports his appointment.

Lacking would neither confirm nor deny his intention when asked for comment Thursday.

That was the latest in a series of events that still left Dunbar without a head football coach four weeks from preseason practice.

Here’s how events unfolded the last 10 days:

• The school board voted not to renew Powell as Dunbar’s football coach.

• Because he was the No. 2 candidate, DPS Human Resources asked Lacking the next day if he were still interested in the job, and he said yes, according to Superintendent Rhonda Corr.

• The board approved Lacking as coach during a retreat last Saturday.

• During Tuesday’s board meeting, Lacking said no one from the school district informed him he had been hired, more than 72 hours after the retreat.

• Thursday, board member Lacey indicated Lacking will not accept the position, citing a message from the school district’s attorney to all board members.

Tuesday was a bizarre school board night. Dozens of Dunbar and Powell supporters — parents, players and coaches (including Powell and Lacking) — crowded into a tiny sixth floor conference room with the school board. Many were among the 1,500-plus who signed an online petition asking for the board to re-hire Powell.

School board members thanked the group for their interest and encouraged them to get their issue added to the agenda for a July 11 school board meeting. But neither the board members nor Corr mentioned that they had already approved Lacking — a fact most in the room seemed unaware of.

The online school board agenda for last Saturday was an oddity, listing a “James Jacking” for consideration for the Dunbar post. Asked whether that name was misspelled, Lacey indicated that, yes, Lacking was the hire.

School board office manager Cherisse Kidd confirmed that all of Saturday’s personnel items had been approved. Tuesday, Lacking said he had not received notification. By Thursday, Lacey said Lacking would no longer pursue the position.

Late Tuesday night, DPS announced there will be another school board meeting at 4:30 p.m. Friday. The notice said only that the board will “vote on recommendations from the superintendent and/or treasurer.”

The only order of business for Tuesday night’s meeting was a closed executive session to discuss the employment of unnamed school personnel. The school board did not vote on any hires.

“It’s overwhelming,” Powell said of Tuesday’s turnout. “I definitely appreciate all the love and support that we’ve gotten over the past week. It just shows that we’re truly family. Dunbar is deeper than just sports. They have my back and I love them for that.”

Powell said Dunbar’s coaches from last season still have been “conducting business day to day” with the team during summer activities. Many of those coaches were there Tuesday, including Lacking, who coached Dunbar’s offensive and defensive lines since Powell has been the head coach the last four seasons.

“We’re not going to leave the kids high and dry,” Powell said. “We’re still going to continue to do it unless they bring me back or bring somebody else in.”

Dunbar forfeited the final two games last season for using an academically ineligible player. Investigations by both the school district and the Ohio High School Athletic Association revealed that coaches and athletic directors did not fully understand the eligibility system.

During the final game against Belmont, once the ineligibility issue was understood, Dunbar called time out, had an emotional sideline team discussion, then ran two questionable plays that the OHSAA charged were intent to lose the game.

Dunbar’s coaches said that directive came from districtwide athletic director Mark Baker, who has denied it multiple times, but has declined to speak to the media about that. The school board gave Baker a two-year contract extension this past spring before declining to retain Powell.

OHSAA officials placed all DPS high school athletic programs on three years of probation and fined DPS $10,000. It targeted Baker, saying the instruction to lose the game came from him.

Nicole Robinson, whose son plays for Dunbar, said parents attended Tuesday’s meeting to support coaches and players, “to move forward in a positive manner for the upcoming football season,” she said.

“We’ve had some ups and downs, but in terms of making sure the students had tutors and things in place to make sure they were eligible to be on the field, we’ve always come together collectively as a group to support our players and our coaches.”

Joseph Scates, a Dunbar standout receiver who has drawn recruiting interest from some of the nation’s top programs, said summer on-field work for Dunbar football “has been going great.”

“The coaching staff and coaching jobs are still kinda complicated and that’s why we’re here (Tuesday) now to get things straightened out,” Scates said. “Darran is more than just a coach to us. It’s more to it than just football. He actually loves us and has been building us and wants us to grow up and be successful young men. … We’re going the extra mile for him because he goes the extra mile for us.”

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