For two years, Mountain Pointe (Phoenix) girls head basketball and football assistant coach Justin Hager had allegedly passed game plans of football and boys basketball games to opponents, according to the Ahwatukee Foothills News.
It wasn’t until the football team traveled to Nevada to take on Faith Lutheran (Las Vegas) on Aug. 23 that Mountain Pointe found out.
Faith Lutheran head coach Vernon Fox received an email with the Mountain Pointe game plan from an account named WalterPayton12@yahoo.com, according to the Foothills News.
Fox shared the email with Mountain Pointe head coach Rich Wellbrock and responded to the email with “we don’t believe in cheating,” according to Tempe Union High School District documents shared with the Arizona Republic.
The email was traced back to Hager, who was hired at the school in 2016.
Hager submitted his resignation Friday, according to the Foothills News.
The Tempe Union High School District found emails that revealed game plan information from the football and boys basketball games going back to 2017, according to the Foothills News.
Hager’s motivations were unclear, according to a letter sent to to Arizona Interscholastic Association executive director David Hines from the Tempe Union athletic director, the Foothills News reported.
“I am at a loss as to why someone would hurt kids in this way,” Wellbrock said in a press release. “The entire coaching staff at Mountain Pointe is deeply troubled that a trusted adult in our program would actively work against the success of our students.”
Emails were sent for regular and postseason games alike, including the 2017-18 boys basketball championship game, which Mountain Pointe lost.
It is believed hundreds, some of which had “extensive communication,” were sent.
The Republic obtained from the district a summary of some emails sent by the WalterPayton12 account. The email account had been shut down. Emails included:
Nov. 14-16, 2017: Prior to the football semifinals matchup, Hager emailed the Perry (Gilbert, Arizona) football coach PDF images of plays. Perry won 56-31.
Feb. 19, 2018: Ahead of the boys basketball semifinals, emails were sent to the Brophy (Phoenix) head coach that included plays Mountain Pointe planned to use. Mountain Pointe won 62-58.
Feb. 27, 2018: The following week, the person behind the WalterPayton12 account called himself “friends with (Mountain Pointe boys basketball) Asst. Coach Fauske” in an email to the championship opponent Pinnacle (Phoenix) head coach. Pinnacle won 76-60.
Aug. 22, 2018: The email again contacted the Pinnacle football head coach. Pinnacle won 56-34.
September 2018: The account reached out to two schools’ coaches, winning one game and losing another.
Oct. 16-17, 2018: The account sent pictures of plays and information about ineligible players to Desert Ridge (Mesa, Arizona). Mountain Pointe won 28-20.
Nov. 5, 2018: Ahead of the football quarterfinals, the account emailed two Chandler (Ariz.) football coaches with image plays. Chandler won 49-21.
Aug. 21, 2019: Faith Lutheran coach Vernon Fox received an email that included plays. Fox responded “we don’t believe in cheating.” Mountain Pointe won 40-17.
Mountain Pointe head boys basketball coach Duane Eason told the Foothills News that he doesn’t blame the emails for his team’s loss.
“I don’t know how much it made an impact, because the kids still have to go out there and execute the game plan, but it’s definitely puzzling,” Eason said.
From 2017-2018, the boys basketball team went a combined 48-11.
The football team went 17-8 over those two years.
Hager’s girls basketball team went 64-31 over his three years at the helm.