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Dayton Daily News (Ohio)

 

Dayton Public Schools took disciplinary action against at least two employees for their roles in handling the aftermath of a Jan. 10 basketball brawl between Dunbar and Thurgood Marshall.

The fight also led to a bitter legal fight this week between DPS and the Ohio High School Athletic Association.

Districtwide Athletic Director Mark Baker and Dunbar High School Principal Crystal Phillips were placed on administrative leave with pay, "pending an investigation related to your employment and your job performance," according to documents obtained via public records request. Attempts to reach the two were unsuccessful.

The disciplinary documents were dated March 1 for Baker and March 2 for Phillips.

It is unclear whether other DPS employees have since been placed on leave. This news organization's records request was submitted March 2, and Friday's response from an attorney representing the district mentioned "additional documents that have come into existence since your original request."

On Jan. 10, with four seconds left in the Dunbar vs. Thurgood junior varsity boys basketball game, a hard foul led to an on-court brawl in which players joined in from the benches, and students and fans rushed the court from the stands.

Leaving the team bench during a fight is a violation of national and OHSAA rules, triggering a flagrant foul, ejection and two-game suspension for any player who does so.

Dunbar officials confirmed in court testimony Tuesday that they did not suspend any of those players, meaning they appeared in JV games all through January and February as ineligible players. Acting DPS Superintendent Elizabeth Lolli confirmed this week that Dunbar will have to forfeit all junior varsity wins during that period.

Dunbar varsity coach Chuck Taylor testified Tuesday that he knows leaving the bench during a fight leads to a two-game suspension. Dunbar JV coach Donnovan Brown testified that he knew which five players were on the court when the brawl started. And both men testified that they watched the tape dozens of times. The tape shows several Dunbar bench players running into the on-court melee.

But when Taylor was asked under oath why Dunbar didn't suspend players for coming off the bench, he said, "It's up to the referee to help us out and give us some numbers." The referee's report did not list the numbers of the players who came off the bench.

Thurgood Marshall players also left the bench during the Jan. 10 fight, but the school suspended those players in consultation with school administrators and Baker, according to the OHSAA.

It is unclear whether Baker communicated with Dunbar's school AD, Quiona Boffman, about the Dunbar players who left the bench. Lolli said this week that she intended to talk to Boffman after Boffman testified that a directive not to suspend players who came off the bench had come from Lolli. A Jan. 11 email from Lolli shows that she specified punishment for active participants in the brawl, but did not address the issue of players coming off the bench.

After initially being removed from the state tournament over an eligibility issue, Dunbar's varsity basketball team was reinstated by a Montgomery County judge and won its sectional final game Wednesday night. They face Cincinnati Woodward at 3 p.m. today in Hamilton.

In October 2016, Baker was the districtwide athletic director and Phillips was the Dunbar principal when Dunbar used an ineligible football player, forcing the school to forfeit two games and miss the playoffs.

The fallout continued into April 2017, when the entire DPS athletic program was fined and placed on three years of probation because Dunbar tried to purposely lose a football game, to engineer a particular playoff outcome, back in October.

Three weeks after that April ruling, Dayton's school board approved a new two-year contract for Baker by a 5-1 vote. That led OHSAA officials to more clearly implicate Baker as the person they believed instructed Dunbar coaches to try to lose that football game.

Contact this reporter at 937-225-2278 or email Jeremy.Kelley@coxinc.com

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