Winning the Southern Cascade League title seemed like a pretty bold goal this spring considering the recent history of the Cascade Christian...
Greg Haga, who has guided the Crater High School wrestling program to eight state championships in 20 seasons, was suspended Tuesday through the 2009-10 school year after multiple violations recently surfaced against the program.
Crater was cited by the Oregon School Activities Association for "misrepresentation by a student" and "misrepresentation by a coach" — each carrying $1,000 fines — after an ineligible wrestler was granted permission by Haga to compete under an assumed name at a Dec. 29-30 tournament in Hawaii.
"He (Haga) knows it was the wrong thing to do," said Central Point schools Superintendent Randy Gravon.
"It seemed like a good idea at the time. The kid had worked hard to bring his grades up. He earned the money to go to Hawaii. He was going to be eligible to wrestle in a few weeks after Christmas break. He thought it was going to be a reward for the kid.
"It was bad judgment, and it turned out to become a much bigger problem than Greg ever intended it to be."
Haga could not be reached for comment.
Following an anonymous tip to the OSAA, a two-week investigation by the school district yielded that, in addition to the violations in Hawaii, Haga had allowed alumni to participate in practice on six different occasions.
Crater was levied a total of $3,100 in fines, and the wrestling program was placed on probation through the 2010-11 school year. Any infractions committed during the probationary period would lead to harser penalties.
Haga, also an assistant softball coach for Crater, is banned from coaching any OSAA sport or activity through the 2009-10 school year. He's also not permitted to coach or attend any OSAA wrestling event through the 2009-10 school year.
Gravon said Haga intended on retiring at the conclusion of the season.
"They gave him a pretty harsh penalty," Gravon said. "I'm not going to second-guess the OSAA. I think it was a serious breach of ethical standards for Greg. I don't question his judgment in terms of what he was trying to accomplish. I don't think he looked at potential consequences for what was really a bad decision on his part. So the OSAA had to take a very strong stand."
Tom Welter, executive director of the OSAA, said the board took into account past violations committed by the Crater wrestling program — as recently as 2005 — in considering penalties when the executive board met on Monday.
"We also took into account the nature," Welter said. "Many of the violations we deal with are errors of omission — a coach played a kid too many quarters and didn't know it. In this case, it was commission. The board views that, as coaches, we are role models, and we're teaching them life-long lessons. In this case, it was a very poor choice of action that needed to be dealt with severely."
Welter could recall only one other instance when a coach was given similar punishment in his 14 years with the OSAA. That involved a wrestling coach at Crook County for a similar offense in the mid-1990s.
Denny Walters, a longtime assistant to Haga, has taken over as head coach for the remainder of the season.
"It's really sad to see him (Haga) end an illustrious career this way when he's done so many positive things," Gravon said. "Greg's an institution here and clearly one of the best wrestling coaches to ever coach in the state. He's accomplished everything you can accomplish in high school wrestling, and he's touched a lot of lives.
"This is devastating to him and his family. He feels like he let the kids down. He feels like he let the program down."
Under Haga, Crater won state titles in 1993, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2003, 2004, 2005 and 2006.
"He's one of the most successful coaches in Oregon history," said Eagle Point coach Kacey McNulty. "I don't think you can look at what he's done and tarnish that. You can't get rid of the state championships that he's won and the success he's had as a wrestling coach."
Reach reporter Luke Andrews at 776-4469, or e-mail email@example.com