Community News Schools Sports — 25 March 2010

Forced to decide on his future, T.C. Williams athletic director Bob McKeag chose retirement over termination in the wake of eligibility offenses that led the school’s boys basketball team to forfeit 12 wins, McKeag said Tuesday.

“My options were to be terminated or to resign,” McKeag explained. 

Hired at the start of the 2008 school year, he left T.C. Wednesday.

An investigation into the ineligible players found no evidence of “malicious behavior or any intent to deceive” and “human error combined with procedural errors” resulted in the players’ place on the team, according to a report dated February 24.

However, after accepting responsibility for the discovery of two fifth-year seniors on the basketball team in early February and since taking steps to fix the system that led to the errors, McKeag said that by late February the tone had changed from constructive to consequential.

According to McKeag, Superintendent Morton Sherman told him the School Board decided in closed session not to renew his contract at the end of the year and wanted him out as soon as possible.

Sherman, reached by phone Wednesday, declined to comment on personnel matters that go on in closed session.

The root of the problem predated McKeag’s tenure. The two ineligible players, Billy Rowland and Darrius Porter, transferred to T.C. before he filled the position that had been vacant since Kerry Donley, the previous athletic director, left the post that summer.

“The fact that they wanted me out immediately, first of all, makes no sense, and puts a great burden on the people in this office” for the rest of the spring sports season, McKeag said.

The procedural errors that led to the discovery two years later were predicated upon a lack of communication between the guidance office and the athletic department, worsening an already “atrocious” athlete registration process, McKeag said.

“Even if [guidance] wanted to communicate, there wasn’t anybody here to communicate to,” McKeag said. “They didn’t communicate with me after I got here, either. I’m not blaming them we’re all busy.

“Holding me responsible for this situation, to me, is [comparable] to holding Dr. Sherman responsible for the fact that T.C. Williams is a poorly performing school,” he said. “That’s not fair. He’s been here two years. This has been developing for a while.”

Ten years ago, the school’s football team had to forfeit two games because of ineligible players. John Porter, the principal at the time, did not recall any personnel changes taking place after that incident, saying those ineligibility issues happen across the state.

Three weeks after the T.C. basketball forfeitures, Hayfield Secondary School in Fairfax forfeited a crucial playoff game after learning an academically ineligible student took part in their opening round win.

For Mark Martino, athletic director at Lake Braddock in Fairfax and a longtime colleague of McKeag, the idea that the T.C. athletic director would be forced to leave was a surprise.

“All I can say right now is that there’s a lot of us who have had issues like this and most of us are still working,” Martino said.

“For me, there’s nobody I have more respect for as a professional administrator in the athletic field than Bob McKeag,” he said.

After more than 34 years in Virginia high school athletics, McKeag, who planned to stay at T.C. for another three years, was unsure what would come next.

“All I can say is that it’s apparent that Alexandria and I were not a good match, because I’ve been successful pretty much everywhere I’ve been and I came here and I’m not worthy enough to even finish the year,” McKeag said. “So that’s pretty odd.”

Sherman said the search for a new athletic director would begin as soon as a successor is found for T.C. principal Bill Clendaniel who has announced his plans to retire at the end of the school year.

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