Ex-Sabino Coach fights back against allegations that lost him baseball championship

Sabino High recruiting investigation - former baseball coach speaking out

TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - For Mark Chandler the pieces of his 2018 state title trophy started to shatter a day after he got his hands on it.

The impact reached not only him, but seven Sabino seniors who thought the championship was theirs, before it was revoked.

One of his player’s parents wrote a letter to the Arizona Interscholastic Association alleging that the ex-Sabino High School baseball coach had broken the AIA laws.

Specifically, the “prior contact” laws.

Chandler and his assistants were accused of having prior contact with two players from Tanque Verde High School.

The allegations claimed he had contact with the players during the summer of 2017, before they transferred to play baseball at Sabino High for him.

That letter led to an investigation by Tucson Unified School District.

“I was upset about it, but at the same time I knew we had the truth on our side so I was not overly concerned with this at all; I looked at it as this is going to be an inconvenience of my time I have to deal with," Chandler said.

In AIA’s prior contact rule, a coach can not have contact with a player a year before they transfer, including no coaching at summer camps, club teams or American legion.

With open enrollment, the AIA sees this as a way to recruit a player to a school.

Chandler and his assistants are confident they can prove to TUSD and the AIA this did not happen in any form.

In the summer of 2017, Chandler and his assistants coached for a club team in Tucson called Baseballs Next Level and one student involved in the accusation, didn’t even know Chandler’s name.

“I have been doing this long enough; I know the rules,” said Chandler, who was disappointed that TUSD’s investigation never verified exactly when and where the alleged prior contact happened.

Chandler has 100 plus pages of documents. This includes the enrollment dates of the 2 players that are in question. Dates of the Baseballs Next Level camps, where the alleged violation happened. Plus calendar dates and notes to show he was out of town during part of the camp.

“You strip a state championship allegedly has to be based upon compelling evidence that’s not compelling evidence, what is right is right needs to come out,” said Chandler.

Chandler is stepping up to the plate now.

Nine months ago he was fighting his own battles, burdened by stage three cancer in his tonsils and lymph nodes.

All while grieving. At the same time he lost his mother to brain cancer.

“I basically unplugged from September of 2018 until March of this year and I went through all my treatment and got the all clear.” Chandler said. “That there’s no more of the disease is in my body, so now I started to think about it and I became angry.”

That anger has fueled his fight back against the AIA and TUSD, urging them to take another look at this case.

There were five allegations that TUSD investigated with Sabino Baseball and Mark Chandler. Back in August TUSD Superintended Dr. Gabriel Trujillo told us 2 of the allegations were not sustained. The others were sustained according to TUSD. The prior contact violation, a violation of paying a coach with booster funds and a violation of bullying a player. TUSD interviewed more than 25 people for this investigation. Including Chandler, his assistants and the 2 players in question.

“My entire reputation and persona has been attacked and I wasn’t healthy enough to fight back.” Chandler said. “I am not here to point fingers at organizations and feel like I am the victim. I just want my story put forth.”

His motivation -- he wants the title back for his players and his reputation restored. He was happy that some of the same kids won the title this year with a different head coach.

KOLD News 13 reached out to TUSD for a comment on the situation. TUSD responded saying, “The district will not comment… since this is a closed matter.”

We also reached out to the AIA about our interview with Mark Chandler. They released this statement, “The AIA does consider this case closed. As a member-driven organization, the AIA cannot deal directly with Mr. Chandler regarding any new information. It would have to come from Sabino, TUSD or (if he is currently employed by) the new member school.”

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