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Haga's saga could be coming to a close

What has been a three-month waiting period for embattled Crater High wrestling coach Greg Haga is likely almost over now that he has had his day of appeal with the Oregon School Activities Association's Executive Board.

Led by Medford attorney Tim Gerking, serving on behalf of the Central Point School District, and Haga's personal attorney, Portland's Adam Arms, Haga's appeal on the OSAA's Feb. 3 ruling to ban him from coaching any OSAA sport or activity through the 2009-10 school year and forbidding him from attending any OSAA wrestling event during that time was heard Sunday by the Executive Board.

"This date's been weighing on me the whole time," Haga said Monday. "It's almost been like a countdown. At first it seemed like it's so long away, and now it's like I couldn't believe it's here already."

Also in attendance in support of Haga were Central Point Superintendent Randy Gravon and Art Lee, who spoke as a community representative.

Haga, who returned home after Sunday's proceedings in Wilsonville, said Monday afternoon that Gravon informed him that the coach may learn of the OSAA's final ruling "later tonight or tomorrow morning." The Executive Board, according to Gravon, was to meet again Monday evening to further discuss the issue.

"I don't really know what to think," said Haga. "Everybody kinda spoke their piece and they said, 'Thank you and we'll take it into consideration.'"

Haga said both attorneys went through his case and mostly talked about the severity of the penalties. They were levied against the coach after a two-week investigation following an anonymous tip that Haga allowed an ineligible wrestler to compete under an assumed name at a Dec. 29-30 tournament in Hawaii and allowed alumni to participate in practice on six occasions.

Crater was also fined $3,100 and the wrestling program was placed on probation through the 2010-11 school year.

"They didn't deny the error in judgment and the fact that I was wrong," Haga said of his attorneys, "they just talked about how the penalties were too severe."

Haga said Sunday's meeting was interactive between the board and those on hand to support Haga, and he believed it allowed some misconceptions about him to be cleared up.

"I was really pleased that they were able to see I do have the community's support and our district's support," said Haga, "and that what we do down here in Central Point is still a good thing for kids. We've worked a lot of years for kids and there's a lot of benefit to what we do on the mat with these kids. We do try to turn boys into men down here and we were able to give insight into what happens down here that goes beyond the mat. I don't think we felt like they had that understanding or sense of support the last time."

Even with a better feeling about the hearing, Haga said he couldn't guess what the board's ruling will be.

"Some things I thought went well and some things I thought didn't go as well," he said. "Sometimes someone would be talking and you'd think they were leaning one way, and then they'd say something that would make you think it was the other way. It's hard for me to judge."

Haga said looking back through history on such matters, several coaches have had their suspensions overturned after the appeals process. That's obviously his hope this time around.

"Obviously, we'd like me to be able to be coaching next year again, but we'll see," he said. "I'm still going to be involved a year from now or whatever it may be. I'll be back."

"I've been blessed with taking over a program where I've had parents and coaches and kids that have made this a wonderful job," added Haga. "I can put up with a year not being there if I have to. Obviously I don't want to because I want to go back. I'll just have to wait to see what (the Executive Board) decides."

Should his appeal be denied, Haga said he still intends to coach wrestling somewhere next year, whether it be at the collegiate or youth level.

The impetus for a speedy decision involves his role as an assistant softball coach for the playoff-bound Comets. Sophomore daughter Sarah Haga is the team's starting catcher, and the coach said six of the nine starters played for him during their pre-high school days.

Haga is able to watch the Comets play from the bleachers but cannot assist in any official capacity during practices or games. He and his wife, Val, also attend track meets to watch middle daughter Holly, a Crater senior who specializes in the discus and shot put. Oldest daughter Kristen is a cross country runner at Southern Oregon University and was the 2007 Crater High valedictorian.

"I've been busy," Greg Haga says of his time away from coaching. "There hasn't been much time to sit on my hands. Whatever the situation, it's up to us to make it a good situation or a bad situation."

Here's hoping the Executive Board takes the same positive approach and acknowledges the 20-plus years of outstanding service at Crater by Haga instead of one regrettable moment.


INSTALLING SYNTHETIC TURF inside the tracks at North Medford High and the new South Medford High will be a request made by Doug Jantzi, Medford's director of secondary education and athletics, at tonight's school board meeting in the South cafeteria. The meeting begins at 7.

Jantzi said he will be asking the board to allow the district to upgrade athletic fields at each site with synthetic turf consistent with what is in place at Spiegelberg Stadium and U.S. Cellular Community Park.

The benefit of such a surface has been immeasurable over the past few years and hopefully will gain approval by the board.

Jantzi said Spiegelberg will continue to be the site of varsity football games for North and South, but the upgrade will provide access to outdoor fields for physical education classes and community members without the issues that exist for natural grass surfaces in inclement weather.

Jantzi said the request is being made now so, if need be, the district has time to plan for the installation of natural grass at the new South High currently under construction.

For more information, go to www.medford.k12.or.us, click on the construction hard hat and then click on the synthetic turf link.

Reach reporter Kris Henry at 776-4488, or e-mail khenry@mailtribune.com