Hacienda-La Puente Unified School District Assistant Superintendent in charge of human resources Rob Roberts confirmed recently that the district hired an external investigator to investigate former Wilson High School football Brian Zavala due to alleged recruiting infractions.
Zavala resigned his position as head coach last week and his teaching position effective at the end of the school year. He has not publicly said why he chose to resign and has not returned several phone calls seeking comment.
As it turns out, the investigation turned up nothing after the parents of the two players involved chose not to cooperate with the external investigator and subsequently checked out of the school on Jan. 3.
“Brian Zavala told me point blank, face to face, that he denied all allegations,” Roberts said. “I have no reason not to believe him.”
Zavala was at the school for two seasons and compiled a 4-16 record. In December, potential CIF violations in terms of residency and eligibility came to the attention of Wilson principal Elena Paul, who launched an investigation into the matter. The school also self reported the allegations to CIF.
“On Dec. 15, I sat down with Mr. Zavala and I shared with him what the allegations were and he denied all allegations,” Roberts said. “We made the decision to go with the external investigator based on the fact there were inconsistencies in what was reported in the statements by the parents and students, and we have Mr. Zavala denying all allegations.”
Of the two players involved, one set of parents did not respond to the investigator’s request for an interview. The set said they’d cooperate, but did not show up for a scheduled interview.
Roberts estimated the district spent less than $500 of the school’s general fund on the external investigator and admitted that the district has used external investigators on its employees in the past for issues of conduct.
Zavala and other coaches at the school were warned by Roberts about the possibility of an outside investigation should any infractions occur as far back as last spring. Roberts had two seminars conducted about CIF rules, one at which Southern Section Assistant Commissioner Rob Wigod spoke.
With Zavala gone, former coach and athletic director Dave Merrill has been brought in as a substitute teacher for one period a day to oversee the team’s weight lifting workouts. Merrill was the athletic director and partly responsible for Zavala’s hiring, a move he takes credit for despite how things turned out.
“I thought he was going to do a great job and I still think he has a lot of potential,” Merrill said. “He was my pick and I will take total credit for pushing for him.”
The school is currently accepting resumes to find its next coach.