Winning in the Worst Way

Rock Knapp transformed little Northwest Academy from gridiron patsy to playoff powerhouse. So why are some parents calling for his head?

The mother says her son began spending a lot of time on the phone with Knapp, starting in the summer of 1997.

"The calls came after practice, weekends, and I started to become concerned," Gobert says.

Lewis finally admitted to his mother that Knapp had a wish list of players, including several at Aldine's Eisenhower High School and Cy-Fair's Westfield. "I'm butt naked as far as a team goes," Lewis quoted to his mother.

Several of the sought-after players came over to Gobert's house after a meeting with Knapp, Gobert says.

"I heard the guys talking about the promises Knapp made," recalls Gobert, who was struck by the cynicism of the young men. She recalls one saying, "You know, I don't know if I can trust him because he's telling us that we have to say that we're not coming to the school for football, we're coming to be around a Christian environment and a good education."

No one in that group ultimately signed on. Gobert says with a laugh, "You know, those kids were smarter than I was."

According to Knapp, the truth is the exact opposite. Lewis did bring great players to his team, but he did it strictly on his own and without any connivance from the coach.

"Keith would call or come by school with a buddy sold on our program, on our school," says Knapp, who insists he never promised players scholarships or anything else.

"Keith brought kids to our program ... because Keith was happy, sold on our program and out there getting after it," Knapp says.

But a former assistant to Knapp says the use of football scholarships was an open secret at the school.

"When we were at practice, Knapp would chastise the kids by saying, 'Some of you guys on scholarship are the worst ones.' So I don't think it was hidden. Everybody in the school knew that they were there basically on a scholarship-type program to play football. Anybody who walked the halls with those kids knew why they were there."

Bible class might cover the meek inheriting the earth, but the scholarship-rich Mustangs were becoming heirs to the mighty in schoolboy football. From a single player on the Choice for Children plan in 1996, at least eight more had been signed up one year later. And gridiron opponents were falling like the walls of Jericho.

However, the jubilation was hardly universal.
First Baptist's Bisagno and other key members of the school hierarchy opened their mail in August 1997 to find a scathing letter about Knapp from attorney Jim Mahan. He was chairman of the school's fund-raising committee and parent of two Northwest Academy graduates.

Mahan wrote of the school's "cancerous condition": lowering its educational standards to bring in athletes with documented behavioral problems and substandard academic records.

"Do you really feel it is fair and wise to bring in these students just for the sake of a winning football team?" Mahan asked. "The only criteria these students meet are that they are 'exceptional athletes.' What really disgusts me is that these students will be coming in under the 'choice for children' program...."

His letter cited examples of the conduct of the players recruited by Knapp. One student allegedly dealt drugs. Another, who arrived after serving jail time for theft, was expelled -- following the football season -- for lewd remarks to coeds. The school dismissed a player for poor grades, then allowed him to return to play as a "homeschooler" after fathering a child out of wedlock. Another athlete stole a student's purse and credit cards but was allowed to play out the football season.

"All of the above-described players were personally recruited and their character vouched for by Ted Knapp," noted Mahan.

The lawyer sarcastically suggested that Northwest Academy add a question to its student application form: whether applicants are on probation and "if so, who is their probation officer?"

Mahan signed the letter, "Your brother in Christ."
Stacy Taylor, a member of the school's board, answered Mahan's accusations with his own. He said the attack on Knapp was a "slanderous, unproven and un-Christlike statement." He added, "Your intent is questionable, and your valid concerns are overshadowed by your obvious animosity to your son's former football coach."

Mahan met with school officials and reported that they were addressing the issues of misuse of the scholarship program and dumbing down of the school curriculum.

Asked about the Mahan allegations, current Houston Christian headmaster Steven Livingston told the Press he had been told that all of Mahan's complaints had been resolved satisfactorily. Knapp says all decisions about curriculum and scholarships were in the hands of administrators at the time, and he had no control over the school's admission decisions.

Mahan, though, concluded that the school still refused to tackle "Ted Knapp's lack of legitimate credentials, lack of integrity regarding his illegal recruitment and illegal playing of ineligible students and his bullying behavior both on and off the field."

Those credentials would soon be examined -- but not by Northwest Academy.

Knapp's primary benefactors, the Rammings, say they were also troubled by the dropouts and disciplinary problems of students attracted by the scholarships. "My husband was furious that Knapp had come to us for money to put those children into an environment with our own son," says Jeanette.

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1 comments
El_Vitriole
El_Vitriole

Knapp has travelled all over the USA, coaching for 2 or 3 years at a dozen 'Christian" schools, talking the talk and definitely helping the football teams achieve wins.  However, in his latter years in Florida and Georgia, he represented himself as having won "Nine State Championships in Six States" which is completely FALSE and a LIE.  He won two State titles in 8-Man football, in 1980 and 1990 and the rest of the time he did well but did not win another State Title.  The man is a LIAR and the TRUTH is not in him.  However, he possesses the ability to fool the faithful and contiues to this day to find stupid people who are all to ready to believe every word he says.

 
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