North Sanpete loses five coaches in six months

Editor’s note:  This article appeared in the Messenger 8/18/2021. It contained journalistic and factual errors. A follow-up article was published 8/25/21 with corrections and additional information. Additionally, several corrections have been made to this digital version since the print version was published (noted below). This article does not stand alone and must be read in conjunction with the follow-up article for context and accuracy.

(L-R): Scott Butler, Daniel Christensen, Spencer Dyches, Cris Hoopes, Stephen Solen

MT. PLEASANT—In the past six months, five head coaches—coaches of baseball, basketball, wrestling, boys soccer and track—have left their jobs at North Sanpete High School.

Most of the departures occurred in the final weeks or at the end of the 2020-21 school year.

“Everyone resigned for different reasons. None of them were forced out,” says O’Dee Hansen, assistant superintendent in the North Sanpete School District, who heads up human resources for the district.

While some coaches are also full-time teachers, many are plucked out of the community. Some turnover would be expected among people who have other jobs and commitments.

One coach and more than one parent said the high school administration’s main focus in athletics has traditionally been on football. “So I am positive if you’re coaching anything other than football, it’s got to be difficult,” says a parent who has a child on the basketball team and who has been a supporter and close observer of Hawk’s sports since he was on the wrestling and football teams as a student.

However, some of the coaches who have left, along with parents of students on their teams, say at least two of the resignations were not voluntary.

Multiple sources in a position to know told a Sanpete Messenger reporter that Dan Christensen, who had been baseball coach for 10 years, and Chris Hoopes, who had coached basketball for 10 years, were given ultimatums: Quit or be fired.

In fact, after the basketball season, Hoopes resigned from his coaching job, but stayed on as a history teacher. But before the school year ended, he was offered a job as a teacher and head basketball coach at Westlake High School, a school with 3,200 students in Saratoga Springs. His family has moved to Utah County. 

Meanwhile, a knowledgeable source said Scott Butler, the track coach and Spanish teacher since 2002, was no longer happy at the high school and left both his teaching and coaching positions. He will teach in the Spanish-English dual-immersion program at North Sanpete Middle School next year.

The sources requested anonymity because they said being identified could hurt their careers or hurt their children’s futures in North Sanpete sports.

And there’s a second verse to the whole story. The new baseball coach will be Austin Hadley, son of North Sanpete athletic director Cheryl Hadley. Austin Hadley has also been hired as assistant golf coach.

The new basketball coach will be Bill Pollock, a math teacher who was assistant coach under Hoopes. Pollack’s assistant-coach position will be filled by Clint Straatman, husband of North Sanpete Principal Christy Straatman.

“The new basketball coach isn’t planning on staying long, and he knows that then the job will go to Christy’s husband,” says the parent and long-time observer of North Sanpete athletics.

“Clint is not being groomed to take over the basketball position,” Hansen says. “We have full confidence in our current head coach and hope to see him here for years to come.”

Meanwhile, the football coach at North Sanpete, hired in 2016, at least four years before Straatman became principal, is her son, Rhett Bird. Previously, Bird taught in the Spanish-English immersion program at Moroni Elementary and at North Sanpete Middle School. This year he has been hired as a Spanish teacher at North Sanpete High School.               

If the scenario the parent described did play out, the head coaches of three major sports—football, basketball and baseball—would be immediate family members of principal Straatman or athletic director Hadley.

Hansen says the district has policies it follows consistently in all hiring. It can hire from within without advertising a job. If it advertises a position, as it does in most cases, the job is open for at least two weeks. If not many people apply, the job can remain on the district website, and even be advertised in the newspaper, as long as needed. It can be advertised as “open until filled.”           

For every opening, an interviewing committee is set up to advise the administration, Hansen says. If the opening is a coach, the committee typically includes parents along with school staff.

Family members of applicants “are not allowed to be part of an interviewing committee or to be their supervisors,” Hansen says. For instance, as baseball coach, Austin Hadley will not report to the North Sanpete athletic director (his mother) but rather to the principal and the assistant athletic director, Hansen says.

But the parent and long-time observer of North Sanpete athletics says of the district, “They only hire and let go when it’s convenient for them. I know of several people who have been very qualified for jobs, yet they give them to less qualified [people] because they are family.”

In the case of baseball, after Dan Christensen resigned, the opening for head coach was advertised for two weeks. Two people applied. The decision to hire Austin Hadley was based on a committee recommendation, Hansen says.

Regarding basketball, after Pollack moved from assistant to head coach, there was an opening for his position. Coincidentally, there was an opening for another assistant coach. The two jobs were posted for two weeks, Hansen says. Only two people, Clint Straatman and Jake Bailey of Fountain Green, applied. Both got the jobs.

The other two coaches who left last year were Spencer Dyches, the wrestling coach, and Stephen Solen, the boys’ soccer coach.

Dyches had some unavoidable personal problems during the last school year, including being forced to quarantine after a family member tested positive for COVID-19, and left before the end of the season.

At the time Dyches resigned, the assistant wrestling coach was Cheyne Christensen, who teaches graphics and digital media at North Sanpete. But unlike with basketball, where the assistant coach, a faculty member, was moved to head coach without the job being advertised, the wrestling job was advertised for at least a month. There were at least five applicants.

Ultimately, Cheyne Christensen got the job. Another assistant coach, Kris King of Mt. Pleasant, a former state-champion Hawk wrestler, stayed put. The district hired Rory Smith of Fountain Green, a former wrestler who graduated a year ago, as the other assistant coach, replacing Christensen. According to a parent of a wrestler, Christensen is the third wrestling coach in four years.

Solen “resigned under good circumstances” after several years as boys’ soccer coach, Hansen said. “We have advertised and hired. I am not sure on the number of applicants.” The new coach will be Rafael Contreras of Mt. Pleasant, who was a Hawk soccer star himself from 2004-2007.

A staff member in the North Sanpete School District Office said the district has not yet advertised for a new track coach to replace Scott Butler.

“We ensure the integrity of our hiring process by abiding by our current North Sanpete School District approved policies, including nepotism,” Hansen said in an email to the Messenger. “We use committees that do not include family members to make sure we are hiring the best candidate for any position.

“We love our community and the opportunity to hire great people to educate our children and students. If we have concerned community members, we would invite them to reach out to their local school board representative or district administration.”

This story was updated from its print version to correct the following:

  • the number of coaches (from six to five)
  • removed Nathan Huntington’s photo who was not a subject of the story
  • replaced Bill Bedford’s photo (captioned as Scott Butler) with a photo of Scott Butler
  • corrected the spelling of Bill Pollock
  • corrected the spelling of Cris Hoopes

Additional changes are called out in a follow-up article which must be read in conjunction with this article for context and accuracy. (08/25/2021, 6:00pm)