A former Mountain Pointe High School coach who gave opposing coaches information about the boys’ basketball and football programs has been fired.
The Tempe Union High School District unanimously voted Wednesday afternoon to terminate Justin Hager, who was hired at Mountain Pointe in 2016 as the girls’ varsity basketball coach and an assistant coach for the varsity football team.
An investigation by the district revealed that Hager had sent multiple plays, formations, injury reports and at one point a list of players who were ineligible to opponents of the school’s football and basketball programs using the anonymous email account firstname.lastname@example.org dating back to 2017.
“The community is really hurt by the actions of this individual,” said Andres Barraza, a Tempe Union board member. “This report is troubling to say the least. Student trust is lost.”
Tempe Union’s investigations started shortly after Mountain Pointe football coach Rich Wellbrock was notified by the coach at Faith Lutheran High School in Las Vegas that he had received emails detailing the Pride’s game plan.
According to a statement of charges against Hager released by Tempe Union officials, this was the third instance in which Wellbrock was notified of the email account.
The first came in November 2018, when a coach from Brophy College Prep had notified Mountain Pointe that information about the football program was being leaked.
At the time, Wellbrock thought it was “assumed it was a disgruntled parent and thought it would stop when the season was over,” according to the statement of charges.
In March 2018, Mountain Pointe offensive coordinator Mark Mejia was contacted by WalterPayton12 telling him to not take a job at the school. According to the statement of charges, the account cited issues with kids, staff and Wellbrock.
Mejia forwarded the email to Wellbrock, who at the time believed it was someone “he had upset during his career.”
According to the statement of charges presented to the school board, Wellbrock had contacted a friend that coaches at Mountain View to ask whether he had received emails from the same account.
The coach responded that he had received an email but had deleted it.
Before Mountain Pointe’s contest against Pinnacle High School on Aug. 30, 2019, Wellbrock asked Pioneers coach Dana Zupke if he had received emails. According to the statement of charges, Zupke told Wellbrock he had and would forward a screenshot.
Zupke forwarded a screenshot of the emails to Wellbrock on Aug. 31, according to a press release by the Paradise Valley Unified School District.
According to the statement of charges, it was at that time that Griffin Wellbrock, Rich Wellbrock’s son and assistant coach of the Mountain Pointe football team, informed him that he had attempted to logon to the account.
The steps taken to access the account as noted in the statement of charges is detailed below:
Went to Yahoo Log In
Typed in walterpayton12
Stated that he had forgot his password
A retrieval phone number came up ending in “80”
Stated he did not have access to the phone
A retrieval email came up as email@example.com
According to the statement of charges, Wellbrock then contacted Mountain Pointe Athletic Director Aaron Frana and told him he would be having a “serious” discussion with a member of the staff on Sept. 3.
Wellbrock confronted Hager in his office that day, explaining what he had found and that he would be sending an access code to logon to the WalterPayton12 account.
Hager’s phone received no code but after two failed attempts, Wellbrock read the code off of Hager’s phone and it allowed him to access the account.
According to the statement of charges, once inside the email, Wellbrock did a quick scan and saw multiple emails to “multiple media members, coaches at other schools in multiple sports, and district information.”
Along with game plans for varsity football and basketball, the emails included correspondence with opposing coaches, injury updates, scouting reports, emails to administration and “contact with media regarding how there should be more coverage of varsity girls basketball and specifically Coach Hager.”
According to the statement of charges, Hager did not provide any relevant information about the account when asked by Wellbrock.
At one point, he allegedly said he had merged two Yahoo accounts together and that a “number of people had his logins.”
An investigation by Tempe Union’s IT department revealed multiple correspondence between Hager’s district email and the WalterPayton12 account. Most of the emails from Hager’s district account contained attachments from Mountain Pointe’s Hudl account, which is used to game plan and watch film.
Tempe Union officials say district employees witnessed hundreds of emails sent from WalterPayton12 to opposing coaches. However, only some of the emails were obtained as the account was shut down.
According to the statement of charges, Hager met with human resources officials on Sept. 13 to discuss the findings of the investigation. After the review had concluded, Hager admitted to sending the emails.
Hager has 10 days to request a formal hearing to reverse the district’s decision to terminate him. Should he respond within the time frame, his termination would be placed on hold until the end of the hearing.
“I truly believe the decision we are making today is one where we are acting responsibly,” said Sandy Lowe, a Tempe Union board member.