While a central Florida football powerhouse continues to sound off about how its recent black eye of abandoned victories could have easily unfolded elsewhere, that program's longtime head coach has suddenly stepped down, leaving behind a three-year legacy of success and, some might argue, a lack of control.
At the start of July, Dr. Phillips (Fla.) High forfeited its entire 2010 slate of victories, a collection that included the team's first ever run to the state championship game, where the Panthers fell to Miami (Fla.) Central High. Those forfeits were the result of an investigation that proved a member of the Dr. Phillips team played the entire season while he should have been ruled ineligible.
Days after those findings, Dr. Phillips head coach Dale Salapa resigned from his position. According to the Orlando Sentinel, Salapa -- who compiled an impressive 35-4 record in three years at the school -- claims that his resignation comes so he can return to school to finish a graduate degree.
While a return to school may serve as ample motivation for Salapa's departure, he also leaves after a host of tumultuous circumstances have rocked the program in the past year.
First, the Dr. Philips program was involved in a highly publicized, violent hazing incident in September. Then, in the middle of the summer 7-on-7 schedule, Salapa, who is pictured below, was reportedly involved in an altercation with a parent at a tournament.
Then, just as it seemed the concerns were on the backburner, the forfeiture of the 2010 season was announced, wiping the most successful season in school history from the official record.
"DP is a big job,'' Salapa texted to the Sentinel. "Overcoming its past is tough. I gave it my best shot."
Just as Salapa leaves the program, Dr. Phillips athletic director John Magrino is also being moved out of the department. Dr. Phillips principal Eugene Trochinski told the Orlando Sentinel that Magrino will move into an administrative dean role at the school and will be replaced by longtime Apopka athletic director Russell Wambles.
Meanwhile, Salapa will be replaced by DP defensive coordinator Rodney Wells, a former Panthers player who later played collegiate football at Syracuse.
"Being at his alma mater will mean even more to him than it might mean to other coaches," Trochinski said. "He's a great role model for our kids, and the team has great respect for him."
The upheaval at Dr. Phillips followed comments from athletic directors at a variety of other central Florida schools who all echoed the sentiment that such a violation could have easily occurred anywhere.
"As far as physically verifying the address of every student who goes to school here, that is outside of our realm," Port Orange (Fl.) Spruce Creek High athletic director Mike Randow told the Sentinel. "We can only take for granted the information they are providing is accurate. To be fair, if we check on one, we probably would have to check on every athlete in our school, and I have anywhere from 800 to 1,000 athletes."
Whether the sympathy of other area athletic directors could have helped keep either Salapa or Magrino in their existing jobs is a relevant question, though it seems likely it will never be answered. Officially, Trochinski has steadfastly avoided placing blame for the season's forfeiture on his now-former coach or AD.
"We have to put trust in that parents give us accurate information," Dr. Phillips Principal Eugene Trochinski said. "This kid lived in our feeder zone and had gone here for three years. There was no red flag that went up and said, 'Double-check on this one.'"