Dayton Public Schools athletic department has had a tumultuous past two years, ranging from state championship athletes and teams, to rule-breaking, missing money and state probation. Here’s a look back:
Events of 2016
Feb. 29 — DPS internal auditor Randall Harper submits audit findings, showing that the gate receipts of five home football games from 2014 and 2015 are missing, totaling $14,312. The audit also said documentation was missing, and procedures for paying game-day student workers could be a violation of the federal Fair Labor Standards Act.”
March 4 — Jonas Smith announces he is leaving the district June 30 after 11 years as district athletic director. Just a year earlier, Smith had served as president of the Ohio High School Athletic Association’s board of directors.
March-April – Donte Murphy keeps coaching Ponitz’s track team after being fired by DPS as an aide and coach. The district doesn’t stop him until May 4. In the meantime, he has sex with an 18-year-old Ponitz student-athlete twice, according to court records. Murphy shouldn’t have been employed at all, as the state had not approved his application for new licenses after his arrest for soliciting a prostitute in 2014. He doctored his state license to serve as a coach, and DPS didn’t notice until a Dayton Daily News investigation revealed the forgery. He was eventually convicted of both forgery and sexual battery.
June 4 – Stivers boys track team finishes fifth in the state, as star sprinter Tyler Johnson wins two individual events, setting a state record in the 400 meters.
June – DPS twice offers its district AD job, then rescinds the offers, as finalists Mark Baker and Torrance Hill wait. The school board reopens the process after saying interviews had not been done fairly.
June 16 – The school board hires Rhonda Corr as superintendent, replacing Lori Ward, who served as superintendent for six years.
June 21 – The school board hires Mark Baker as district AD, to start July 1. Baker, a former Dunbar basketball star, had most recently worked for Middletown City Schools, coaching basketball and running student mentoring and teacher development programs. He has not been an athletic director before.
Oct. 28 – On the afternoon of the football season finale, Dunbar staff are made aware that a star football player may be ineligible because of final first-quarter grades. After discussion among coaches, principal and AD, Dunbar coaches put the player into the game against Belmont. Minutes later, they discover the player is, in fact ineligible, and was the previous week, too. After a halftime meeting involving coaches and AD Baker, coaches can be seen giving players the bad news and some instructions. The players then run multiple plays designed to intentionally lose the game. Referees stop play and pull the coaches together. When play resumes, the teams compete fairly, and Dunbar wins 54-34.
Oct. 29 – The OHSAA rules Dunbar’s last two games of the season are forfeit losses for using an ineligible player, knocking Dunbar out of the playoffs. Two days later, Dunbar coach Darran Powell and Dunbar AD Pete Pullen tell OHSAA officials at an appeal hearing that Baker told them to lose on purpose. Baker denies it. The day after that, Dunbar principal Crystal Phillips reprimands Pullen and Powell for using an ineligible player.
Nov. 17 – Pullen resigns as Dunbar’s school AD.
Mid-December – Superintendent Corr makes statement saying a DPS investigation reveals Baker did not tell Dunbar staff to lose on purpose.
Events of 2017
February – Dayton’s school board gives Corr a three-year contract extension.
March – Dunbar’s boys basketball team, coached by Pullen, reaches the regional championship game before losing to Trotwood.
April 6 – The OHSAA places all Dayton Public Schools boys and girls athletic teams on immediate three-year probation because of Dunbar’s effort to lose the October football game on purpose. The district also is fined $10,000 and administrators are ordered to attend compliance meetings and training in Columbus.
Mid-April – Video is made more public, showing how blatant an effort Dunbar made to throw that game. The quarterback tosses the ball directly to a Belmont linebacker, and the running back gestures toward the end zone, telling him to score. It also becomes clear that the player eligibility error was missed by coaches, athletic directors and the principal.
April 26 — Dayton’s school board approves a two-year contract renewal for Baker, with school board president Robert Walker saying it is time to move forward, not look backward. Joe Lacey is the only board member to vote no, saying “The rallying around the people responsible for this really disgusts me.”
May 11 – The OHSAA, via spokesman Tim Stried, points its finger clearly at Baker — “The reason that all DPS schools are on probation is that the major infraction on the suggestion of throwing the game, was from the director of athletics for DPS. As long as that person is still in charge of all DPS schools (for athletics), they’re all going to be on probation.”
June 2 – Dunbar boys win the Division II state championship in track and field, following on the heels of state crowns in 2012, 2013 and 2015. Meadowdale finishes third behind star sprinter Wayne Lawrence Jr.’s pair of individual championships.
June – Dayton’s school board goes back and forth on what to do with Dunbar football coach Darran Powell. First, they vote against hiring him for the 2017 season, and offer the job to one of his assistant coaches. But the assistant says no.
July 11 – The school board votes 6-1 to reinstate Darran Powell as Dunbar football coach. Lacey is again the only “no” vote, saying the board is not taking last fall’s problems seriously enough.
July 11 – Internal Auditor Randall Harper says $2,105 in ticket sale receipts from multiple basketball games last winter went missing and is now being repaid by the people responsible for overseeing the money. DPS does not identify those people.
Aug. 15 – DPS begins a new school year, a few days after narrowly avoiding a teacher strike.
Aug. 22 — Dayton’s school board lowers the required grade-point average for student sports eligibility, while introducing a mandatory tutoring program for those athletes at the low end of the scale. Once again, Lacey is the only vote against the change. Many Dayton residents complain about the move in the following days.
Nov. 7 – Voters choose four new school board members, and do not re-elect Lacey.
Nov. 21 – The school board puts Superintendent Corr on leave over allegations about her management style and other issues. Elizabeth Lolli becomes acting superintendent.
Dec. 13 – Talks begin about closing some Dayton schools because of lower enrollment. It is unclear whether that will cause any student-athletes to transfer.
Events of 2018
Jan. 10 – A bench-clearing breaks out in the final seconds of the Dunbar-Thurgood Marshall junior varsity basketball game, with fans charging onto the floor. Unknown to the public at the time, Thurgood Marshall quickly enforces the standard two-game suspension for its players who left the bench in the fight, but Dunbar does not.
Jan. 30 – The school board reaches a separation agreement with Corr, formally ending her role in the district.
Feb. 23 – One of the Dunbar players from the Jan. 10 brawl plays for a few minutes in Dunbar’s easy varsity tournament win over West Carrollton.
Feb. 28 – The OHSAA kicks Dunbar out of the tournament, saying they used an ineligible player (because that player from the Jan. 10 brawl was never suspended, he was ineligible).
March 1-2 – Baker and Dunbar Principal Crystal Phillips are put on paid leave by DPS administration.
March 2 – DPS sues OHSAA, saying Dunbar was wrongly removed from the tournament.
March 6 – DPS and OHSAA fight in court, with DPS saying the player in question never left the bench and went into the fight, so he should be eligible. Judge Michael Krumholtz agrees, citing key testimony from Dunbar varsity coach Chuck Taylor, and puts Dunbar back in tournament.
March 7 – Dunbar defeats Middletown Fenwick to advance to the district final.
March 9 – Phillips is taken off paid leave and returns to work. Dunbar school AD Quiona Boffman and JV basketball coach Donnovan Brown are given formal reprimands for their role in the case.
March 10 — Dunbar loses to Woodward, ending its season.
March 14 — Baker is taken off paid leave and returns to work.
Mid-March – Unknown to the public, fans who attended the Jan. 10 “brawl” game give OHSAA new video showing that the key player in the eligibility fight actually DID participate in the fight, so he was ineligible to play in the tournament.
March 20 – The school board hires Lolli as superintendent, giving her a three-year contract.
April 10 – Internal auditor Randall Harper says for the first time in four years, no athletic ticket money from the fall and winter seasons is missing. But he says there are still deficiencies on several athletic department procedures.
April 26 – DPS issues a joint statement with the OHSAA, publicly admitting it was wrong in the Dunbar basketball eligibility case, saying the team should not have been reinstated to the tournament. The OHSAA bans Dunbar’s boys basketball team from the 2019 postseason, extends probation through June 2020 for the district, and through 2022 for Dunbar High School.
May 3 – A districtwide email from Lolli says Baker is out as district AD next year, to be replaced by Wright Brothers Middle School Principal Shawna Welch. Baker argues the athletic department is in a better place than when he started. He touts better compliance processes, no missing money this year, the creation of a new district TV show and better web presence promoting athletes, plus 300 student athletes having a 3.0 GPA or higher. Baker maintains that responsibility for the Dunbar basketball errors this year should not fall to him.