The Arizona Interscholastic Association decided not to punish any team named in the Mountain Pointe High School email scandal but did express concern that the story didn’t surface sooner.
“The best thing we can take away is, why is a school from out of state letting everybody know, ‘I think you’ve got a problem here.’ … The fact that this has gone on for a couple of years is disturbing,” AIA executive director David Hines said.
The AIA’s executive council met last week for the first time since Tempe Union High School District disclosed former Mountain Pointe assistant coach Justin Hager leaked information about the football and men’s basketball teams to schools they were scheduled to play.
Hager, who was fired last month by the district, used a fake email account for at least two years to leak the information about plays and players.
Following a report that several Arizona high schools, including Pinnacle, Highland, Perry and Chandler, received sensitive game details from Hager’s burner email account, the AIA investigated the schools to see if any had benefited from the information shared to them.
“From the information that they were able to retrieve, there was no dialogue back and forth,” Hines said. “They did receive an email, and most of those were just deleted, but there was not a dialogue going back and forth between WalterPayton12 and the schools in question.”
An investigation by Tempe Union officials revealed Pinnacle head football coach Dana Zupke had received emails from WalterPayton12 on two occasions from 2018 and 2019.
The emails contained game strategy for Mountain Pointe’s football program, which lost both contests against Pinnacle each year.
An investigation by the Paradise Valley Unified School District found that Pinnacle basketball coach Charlie Wilde also received an email containing sensitive information about Mountain Pointe’s basketball program.
The investigation revealed that Zupke had sent screenshots of the emails to Mountain Pointe football coach Rich Wellbrock on Aug. 31, the day after Pinnacle defeated Mountain Pointe this year.
Highland head football coach Brock Farrel, Perry football coach Preston Jones and basketball coach Sam Duane also received emails, according to findings by Tempe Union.
Jones was the only coach to reply to the email he received in 2017, saying, “Why would they do what they did against Chandler?” referring to game strategy for Mountain Pointe’s defense.
An investigation by Perry High administrators revealed Jones had replied in a joking matter, and that no information was used.
Former Chandler High football coach Shaun Aguano, who is now the running backs coach at Arizona State, also received emails before last season’s quarterfinal playoff game against Mountain Pointe.
According to Chandler Principal Larry Rother, Aguano reported the email to administrators and deemed it as non-credible. He was then instructed to delete the email, which he did.
Wellbrock only found out when an out-of-state school – Faith Lutheran High School in Las Vegas – contacted him about the information received.
Because emails suggested the sharing of information had been occurring for up to three years, the AIA is hoping to prevent issues like this one from reoccurring.
“As an association, we need to police ourselves,” Hines said. “It’s appropriate for coaches to communicate to coaches, and athletic directors to communicate to athletic directors, ‘Hey we’ve received this, I think there’s something going on, you need to check into this,’ and end at that.”
Hines said that it should be the goal of the AIA, as well as coaches and athletic directors across the state, to ensure that all sports be held to a higher standard.
He also noted that not all the information shared by Hager was accurate, mentioning one email from the coach that said three players would miss a game because of injury. All three ended up playing.