Bob McKeag spent part of a recent afternoon in his office packing his belongings and wondering why his 18-month tenure as director of athletics at T.C. Williams High School had to end this way.
The 57-year-old McKeag will retire at the end of the school year, but Wednesday was his final day in the building. According to a statement written by McKeag, his retirement from the AD position, as well as the timing of his departure, is the result of a March 10 meeting with ACPS Superintendent Dr. Morton Sherman.
The reason for the meeting, according to McKeag, was "to inform me that the School Board needed to hold someone accountable for the eligibility issue that involved two varsity boys basketball players during the past winter sports season. Dr. Sherman said the School Board voted not to renew my contract at the conclusion of the current school year, and in fact, wanted me out of ACPS as soon as possible. Dr. Sherman said the reason he and I were meeting was to come to an agreement on how I was to end my tenure as athletic director at T.C. Williams High School."
McKeag will spend the rest of the school year on accumulated leave before officially retiring June 30 — a decision he said was forced upon him.
"I had no intention of going anywhere," McKeag said Wednesday.
A message left for Sherman seeking comment on Wednesday morning was not immediately returned. A statement on the ACPS Web site titled "T.C. Transformation Continues" says McKeag announced he will retire and "we appreciate Mr. McKeag’s professional and energetic support of athletics during the past year and a half."
According to McKeag’s statement, McKeag has never "been asked to speak to the School Board about any issue that involves student/athletes and it is disturbing that a decision about my employment was made without ever hearing from me. Had I been asked to address them concerning this issue I would have been able to tell them the steps I have already put in place in an effort to ensure an eligibility issue of this nature does not happen again."
The issue at hand involved T.C. Williams basketball players Billy Rowland and Darrius Porter, who were found during the 2009-10 season to be fifth-year students; Virginia High School League rules allow athletes four seasons of eligibility. Each athlete attended a school in another state before transferring to T.C. Williams in 2008. Both students arrived at the school before McKeag was hired as AD in September 2008.
The Titans were 12-3 when the issues were announced on Feb. 1 and T.C. Williams was forced to forfeit its victories. The forfeits snapped an 80-game Patriot District winning streak for the Titans, who ended their season with a loss in the opening round of the district tournament.
According to McKeag’s statement, Porter registered at T.C. Williams as a sophomore in January 2008 after transferring from a school in North Carolina during his sophomore year. It was later discovered Porter had repeated the ninth grade in North Carolina and started high school in 2005, which "was not noted anywhere in documentation received by the athletic office."
Rowland completed two years of high school in Maryland before transferring to Bishop Ireton in Alexandria, where he repeated his sophomore year, the statement read. When he transferred to T.C. Williams in August 2008, a counselor "told his parents he ‘had enough credits to be a senior,’ but at the request of the parents [the counselor] registered him as a junior. The athletic office was not notified at any time."
Both players were listed on the master eligibility list sent to the VHSL for the 2008-09 winter season as having entered the ninth grade in 2006, the statement read. Both were listed as juniors taking junior classes and met criteria for the VHSL Grade Rule (must be enrolled in the last four years of high school) and the school’s 2.0 GPA rule.
"Since both students had registered for classes at TCW before I became the athletic director — and no red flags were raised by anyone at any point in this process — there was no reason to question the junior status of either student/athlete," McKeag wrote.
Jim Clark, vice president of the T.C. Williams Unified Athletic Boosters, said on Tuesday night the group authorized a three-person committee to address McKeag’s retirement with Sherman and the School Board. Clark said the group has "an eye toward trying to get honest answers about how Mr. McKeag came to be relieved of his duties."
McKeag has 35 years experience — 28 in the Northern Region — as a teacher, coach or administrator. His other stops include being South County Secondary School’s first AD when it opened in 2005 and leading the Robinson Secondary School boys basketball team to the 1987 Northern Region championship.
"My plan was to be [at T.C. Williams] a minimum of five years, because experience has taught me that establishing a program that will stand the test of time takes at least that long to implement," his statement read. "I came to T.C. Williams with a clear vision of how the athletic department could be an integral part of an overall outstanding school — and one the entire Alexandria community could be proud of. It is a shame that vision has been cut short."