Weber High assistant coach fired after ‘undue influence’ in recruiting football players
An internal investigation earlier this month found that a Weber High School assistant football coach recruited players to the school’s football team, violating undue influence rules, according to a Weber School District statement issued Thursday morning.
On Thursday afternoon, the district fired the team’s offensive coordinator Zac Connors, district spokesperson Lane Findlay told the Standard-Examiner.
Additional fallout is on its way. Head coach Jayson Anderson is suspended for this Friday’s game at Wasatch High as a result of the investigation, according to multiple sources familiar with the situation who weren’t authorized to speak publicly.
The football program is also expected to face sanctions from the Utah High School Activities Association, though the exact details of such sanctions won’t be made official for about five weeks.
In the meantime, two players at the center of the investigation, junior quarterback Crew Cacciacarne and junior receiver/safety Ian Elmore, have had their eligibility restored by the UHSAA after missing the last two games while the investigation took place.
Weber High principal Chris Earnest, who conducted the recruiting investigation, remains on paid administrative leave as of Thursday while the district investigates complaints related to how she handled the investigation, the district said in its morning statement.
Before the school year, the school received a complaint that alleged multiple assistant coaches on the football team recruited multiple players to Weber High from Davis School District, according to the WSD statement.
Earnest’s investigation determined that a Weber assistant coach “exercised undue influence in the recruitment of players,” the WSD statement reads.
According to sources, that coach was Connors. Connors is not a teacher at the school and as such was an at-will employee of the district, Findlay said.
Earnest interviewed football team coaches and others involved, and looked at verifications of the aforementioned players’ residency, as part of her investigation, Findlay said.
After Earnest finished her investigation, the district received a complaint into how the investigation was handled and on Aug. 16, put her administrative leave, which the district calls standard procedure.
Earnest was named principal of Weber High in 2018 after previously serving as principal at Orion Junior High and before that, taught for 19 years at South Ogden Junior High.
Earnest received a letter of admonishment in 2016 from the Utah Professional Practices Advisory Commission (UPPAC) for an unspecified “allegation,” according to documents obtained via public records request.
SANCTIONS EXPECTED FOR FOOTBALL TEAM
Sanctions are expected to be imposed on the Weber High football program. Sanctions of this type normally involve a fine and may include things such as forfeiting games or coach suspensions.
Typically when rules violations happen, individual regions — Weber is in 6A Region 1 for athletics — recommend sanctions to the UHSAA executive committee, which then has to approve the sanctions before they take effect.
The Region 1 board of managers has recommended currently unknown sanctions to the UHSAA executive committee, which next meets on Wednesday, Oct. 4.
During Earnest’s investigation into the recruiting allegations, Cacciacarne and Elmore’s eligibilities were also questioned. Both players transferred to Weber from Layton High this offseason and both were approved for varsity competition before the season began.
They both played in Weber’s season-opener against Westlake on Aug. 11, then were declared ineligible for varsity competition some time after the game amid the school inquiry into their transfer situation.
They’ve missed the last two games but were deemed eligible for varsity participation under the UHSAA’s jurisdiction after an eligibility hearing at the UHSAA on Wednesday, Aug. 30, UHSAA counsel Mark VanWagoner told the Standard-Examiner via email.
Both players initially had their transfer approved after showing the UHSAA their families had moved into Weber High boundaries but, Van Wagoner said, some at Weber High objected and claimed to have information showing the families hadn’t moved.
At the hearing, which was also attended by a Weber School District representative and an assistant principal from Layton High, families for both players provided information “tending to prove that they had moved into the boundary of Weber High School and intended to remain in that boundary,” according to Van Wagoner.
Attempts to reach the players and their families have been unsuccessful.
Weber’s football team has a record of 0-3 and plays at Wasatch High on Friday. As of Thursday evening, the Standard-Examiner was unable to determine who will be acting head coach for that game.
Connect with reporter Patrick Carr via email at firstname.lastname@example.org, Twitter @patrickcarr_ and Instagram @standardexaminersports.