Arizona school district votes to dismiss coach over emails to opposing coaches

Photo: Ben Moffat/The Republic

The Tempe Union High School District’s governing board on Wednesday voted 4-0 to dismiss Mountain Pointe coach and teacher Justin Hager over his WalterPayton12 email account that gave game plans to opposing coaches.

Jennifer Liewer, spokeswoman for the Tempe district, said that Hager has 10 days to request a hearing.

If he does not request a hearing, then the dismissal will be final, she said.

Hager, who served in the physical education department and was an assistant football coach and head varsity girls basketball coach since 2016, sent hundreds of emails, the district discovered during its investigation, to opposing coaches, giving away game plans, plays, strategy and personnel status since 2017.

The district traced his WalterPayton12 Yahoo account through his Tempe Union work account.

Those emails were released by the Tempe district and turned over to the Arizona Interscholastic Association in a report.

Districts that had coaches receive emails from WalterPayton12 conducted their own investigations.

The emails weren’t detected until Faith Lutheran of Las Vegas head coach Vernon Fox told Mountain Pointe coach Rich Wellbrock after Wellbrock’s team beat Faith Lutheran 40-0 to open the season.

Wellbrock and Tempe district Athletic Director Bruce Kipper said they are not able to comment publicly about Hager, while the district goes through this process with Hager.

Hager told The Arizona Republic in a text message on Sept. 16 that he resigned and he took an administration and coaching job. But he wouldn’t say where. The Tempe Union High School District rejected his resignation and moved to terminate him.

On Wednesday, The Republic sent a message to Hager. He has not responded.

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