A faceoff between Dunbar High School coaches and Dayton Public Schools athletic director Mark Baker has resulted in separate investigations that could lead to Ohio High School Athletic Association penalties.
Both the OHSAA and DPS launched investigations. Dunbar coaches allege that Baker told Dunbar to forfeit — or lose — a Week 10 football game against City League rival Belmont at Welcome Stadium. That would be an extreme breach of the association’s code of conduct by which all member schools are expected to abide. Penalties by the OHSAA could include probation, fine and possible postseason suspensions.
Baker has not responded to repeated requests for comment. A statement by DPS superintendent Rhonda Corr on Friday indicated its investigation has ended.
“After a thorough investigation into the matter, it was determined that Mark Baker did not instruct Dunbar to lose or forfeit the Week 10 football game to Belmont,” said Corr.
The OHSAA indicated its investigation likely won’t conclude until after the new year.
“The OHSAA is currently investigating several allegations regarding Dayton Public Schools and the football forfeitures of Dunbar High School from Weeks 9 and 10 of the regular season,” OHSAA director of media relations Tim Stried said in a statement.
“The forfeitures were issued on October 30 and had an impact on the football playoff qualifiers in southwest Ohio, but new allegations have come forward involving the days leading up to, and including, Dunbar’s final regular-season game.”
Dunbar beat Taft and Belmont in Weeks 9-10 games, but forfeited both wins after the OHSAA ruled an ineligible player had participated. The forfeits came after it was discovered that Baker and then-Dunbar athletic director Pete Pullen had miscalculated the player’s credits for the fall nine-week grading period.
Those forfeits resonated throughout the Divisions II, III and IV playoff fields, knocking Cincinnati Princeton (D-II), Piqua (D-III) and Dunbar (D-IV) out of qualifying. They were replaced by Cincinnati Anderson (D-II), Belmont (D-III) and Cincinnati Taft (D-IV).
According to Dunbar coaches, Baker thought both Dunbar and Belmont would qualify for the playoffs if Dunbar lost or forfeited against Belmont in Week 10. Instead, the player also was deemed to have been ineligible for playing in Week 9 and 10 games.
“(Baker) said if I throw the (Belmont) game, he wouldn’t turn me in,” Powell said. “I said, you want me to tell my kids to lose?”
Stried confirmed that Powell, his uncle and assistant football coach Alfred Powell and Pullen all told the OHSAA in an Oct. 31 appeals meeting in Columbus that Baker said Dunbar should lose the game.
It was Alfred Powell who said Baker initially contacted him at halftime and was instructed to relay a message to Darran Powell that Dunbar should lose to Belmont.
“In a nutshell, (Baker) told me to tell Darran that we needed to lose the game,” Alfred Powell said. “Let Belmont win. … He told me there had been a mistake made. I told him that mistake will cost us two games, not one game and our athletic director (Pullen) and head coach (Darran Powell) would never go for just losing the game.”
Dunbar led by 20 points as the second half resumed against Belmont. During a timeout, Darran Powell said he told Dunbar players they had been instructed to lose. What followed were two bizarre plays in which Dunbar was penalized for intentional grounding then deliberately throwing an interception.
Officials halted play as a Belmont player was returning the interception for a score. Powell said referees warned that the game would be called for a lack of integrity if they determined Dunbar was deliberately trying to lose. Play resumed and Dunbar won decisively.
However, like the Week 9 game against Taft, Dunbar would forfeit to Belmont 1-0, resulting in a non-playoff-qualifying 7-3 season. Had Dunbar forfeited prior to the Belmont game, it would have resulted in a “no contest” and not counted on their schedules. Addressing a possible forfeit at halftime ensured the game would count.
“This is absolutely heart-breaking for (Dunbar) and the students,” said Baker after the OHSAA ruled on the forfeits. “We’re putting new measures in place already to ensure this never happens to students, parents or supporters in the future.”
Pullen soon after resigned as the Dunbar athletic director. He remains Dunbar’s varsity boys basketball coach and has guided the Wolverines to four state championships and two more final fours in 12 seasons. Darran Powell is a basketball assistant and was a starter on the 2006 D-II state title team.
The supplemental coaching contracts for both Pullen and Powell weren’t approved by the DPS school board until just last week, after the regular season had begun. That resulted in an awkward period in which Pullen and Powell considered themselves “volunteers” and questioned whether they would continue to coach if they were not paid.
Baker is a celebrated Dunbar alum who was a starter on the Wolverines’ first state title team (Class AAA) in 1987 and also starred at Ohio State University. He resigned as Middletown’s boys basketball coach to succeed Jonas Smith as the DPS athletic director last summer.
OHSAA officials indicated it was the first time they have been confronted with an accusation of “throwing” a game.
“It’s murky waters,” Darran Powell said. “The whole thing was getting two teams into the playoffs. (Baker) was thinking we could forfeit the Belmont game and we wouldn’t have to forfeit the Taft game. … My name’s in the dirt; our names are in the dirt. It makes it look like it’s on us. Whatever happened, somebody needs to step up to it.”