Winning in the Worst Way

Last spring, Detra Gobert swapped her Houston police sergeant's uniform for the more down-to-earth role of football mom, taking a place on a couch in the Memorial-area home of Jeanette and Larry Ramming.

These affluent benefactors of the Northwest Academy football team were hosting an informal meeting that included her son, several other football players and Ted "Rock" Knapp, the Baptist school's athletic director and head coach.

Gobert, expecting a typical pep talk, says she was shocked when the coach warned the student athletes to keep this session secret.

"We're meeting here, but you can't tell anybody else that we're meeting here," Gobert recalls Knapp admonishing the group. "What we discuss, don't tell your friends."

The implication that the confab might somehow be subversive struck Gobert as ludicrous. Weren't they there simply to arrange scholarships to the private school, now known as Houston Christian High School? The Rammings had agreed to underwrite financial assistance worth over $5,000 a year per student.

Gobert knows to keep close tabs on her son's activities, because she has seen enough examples of kids gone wrong in her 16 years as a cop. She was surprised to find she was the only adult guest at the meeting and that Knapp seemed distinctly uneasy with her presence.

Gobert was not familiar with high school football recruiting regulations, but the spectacle of a Christian coach advising his players to conceal the session gave her pause.

"I was upset," recalls Gobert. "I took Jeanette to the kitchen and told her I was not comfortable with someone telling my boy not to be truthful about things. At the time she said, 'It's going to be okay, he's just trying to make sure they don't go and tell people.' "

The school offered a scholarship program called Choice for Children, but it was intended to help underprivileged students, not to beef up the roster of a football squad. However, some parents say that's just what happened.

In 1996 the school had only one athlete on the Choice for Children roll. The next year, there were nine, according to school officials. And Knapp himself said there were 11 "Choice" children on the team.

Impacts were obvious. In three seasons, the Northwest Mustangs coach transformed a dog of a team into a state championship runner-up the last two years.

It was the price of that success that upset some parents. They say Knapp's lust for winning brought in players with discipline problems -- one allegedly dealt drugs on campus -- who would disappear after the season as quickly as they had come.

Knapp's critics said that, coupled with questionable cash gifts to the coach and the program, the little academy dedicated to Christian ideals got swept away by the ungodly fever of Texas schoolboy football.

If scholarships were given to attract public-school athletes to the team, it was a direct violation of the rules of the Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools, TAPPS officials say.

Knapp and Northwest Academy have never been cited for violations, but, then again, the coach runs this district's TAPPS football committee.

School officials say they've investigated and found no wrongdoing. Knapp, 42, says he cannot recall the meeting Gobert describes, but he scoffs at any suggestion he broke the rules.

"I don't cheat ... I never said those things. I have never illegally recruited a player to this school," declares Knapp, tears glistening in his eyes. "Amen. End of story."

The coach might like the story to stop here, but Gobert's account is really just the beginning.

Houston Christian, formerly Northwest Academy, is a private school just northwest of Loop 610 on Watonga. It has grades nine through 12 and an enrollment just above 200. Aside from the religious emphasis, it appeals to parents seeking an oasis for their children from the gangs and drugs that many of them, rightly or wrongly, believe permeate nearby suburban public school districts such as Aldine and Cypress Fairbanks.

The atmosphere of the small campus is intimate, and the Christian fellowship palpable. As the 1997-98 yearbook reported, "Several middle school and high school students were saved by the movement of God in both the Fall and Spring Revivals, and all could feel the presence of the Holy Spirit each week." The school boasts a Bible department, with daily devotionals and prayer "in order to spend quality time with God."

As Northwest Academy, the school had close ties to First Baptist Church and its charismatic minister, John Bisagno, who recently completed a three-year stint as chair of the school's board of directors.

After the reorganization last year that created Houston Christian, the school is now moving on a new course of affiliations with a broad range of Protestant churches.

Not nearly so pricey or picky as top local private schools such as St. John's or Kinkaid, Houston Christian's mission statement outlines its key priorities: "the development of moral character, the enrichment of spiritual lives and the perpetuation of growth in Christian ideals." With Knapp's arrival four years ago from Louisiana, critics say football unofficially joined the list.

Knapp boasted bachelor's and master's degrees from Faith Theological Seminary in Florida, but his appearance in Houston was seen primarily as an answer to the school's prayers to become a football powerhouse.

His resume features testimonials from well-known coaches, including Lou Holtz of Arkansas. Knapp reported being a scout for the Ottawa Rough Riders of the Canadian Football League and four months as a "guest coach" for the CFL's Saskatchewan team.

In experience as a high school coach, he listed the 1989-90 season at Antelope Valley Christian school in Los Angeles, then three years as athletic director and coach at Westminster Christian Academy in Opelousas, Louisiana.

In his resume Knapp says he developed Westminster's football problem into back-to-back undefeated seasons, which he claims established it as one of the highest-profiled high school programs in America. "We were featured in several national publications, including USA Today."

However, the paper credentials pale in comparison to the word-of-mouth recommendations: Several parents say they listened in awe as Knapp talked of his National Football League days with the San Francisco 49ers.

The Northwest Academy board snapped up this gridiron godsend. Knapp, his wife, Shari, and their four children arrived in the fall of 1995.

The native of Des Moines, Iowa, made an immediate impact. Six feet tall and 250 pounds, with pinpoint-intense green eyes, "Coach Rock" seemed the personification of discipline and motivation.

Everyone associated with the school agrees on certain things about the massive coach with the shaved head. He's a powerful speaker, fluent in Biblical scripture. Knapp has an ability to tap into the emotions of his players and draw in parents with traditions such as postgame prayers on the field, which unite players, family and coaches.

A former assistant has no doubt about Knapp's talent as a coach. "He is a heck of a football coach, man," says the underling. "Whether his methods and motives be right or wrong, I learned a lot."

But this same ex-assistant attributes other traits to Knapp, saying he is a manipulator nonpareil who lied about his own football-playing past to his student athletes and co-workers, to inflate his image.

"He is a master at acting and just making you believe what he wants you to believe," says the former assistant. "He's great at it. Ted has the ability to bring in people, get 'em under his wing, and then you trust him. As long as he's being stroked and everything is going his way, everything will be fine."

And everything seemed fine from the very start. In the season opener in September 1995, the lowly Northwest Mustangs, winless in their last 19 games, marched onto the field against Apple Springs. Under Coach Rock, they dominated in a 49-14 victory.

The Houston Chronicle sports section noted that senior running back Chris Edwards galloped for 257 yards and four TDs on just 16 carries. It didn't mention that Edwards was a former Westminster Christian player for Knapp who had followed the coach to his new campus.

By 1996 the gospel was spreading about the coach who was performing the schoolboy football miracle. Jeanette Ramming stopped in an area sporting goods store, where a sales clerk spoke reverent words about a former San Francisco 49er who was fashioning a top-flight program at Northwest Academy.

Ramming would become one of Knapp's greatest converts, and patrons. She and her husband, Larry, had amassed impressive wealth with his rise to chairman and CEO of the internationally known Boots & Coots oil field fire suppression company. But they had kept their middle-class roots, and they liked the lack of pretension and the Christian atmosphere at Northwest Academy.

They enrolled their son Temple in the eighth grade that fall. And the Rammings began helping the football program financially, even lending money to one previous coach of Temple's to help him earn his teaching certificate.

"I had always been active wherever Temple had been in school," says Jeanette, who quickly noticed things such as the team's lack of water bottles or the need for insecticide to kill the ants that plagued the team's practice field.

Ramming began dropping by the athletic office for chats with Knapp. "He was friendly and outgoing, lighthearted, with a genuine concern for the kids," she remembers.

Knapp tells of a broader friendship that developed with the Rammings. "Jeanette is a very giving, kind person, so she helped lots of people outside the football program. It wasn't just a football relationship. Both her and Larry and our family became very close and, I thought, very intimate friends."

In discussions about helping the football program, Ramming says Knapp asked her for money to pay for food and other expenses during road trips.

"I didn't have any reason not to trust him, so I began giving him cash like he requested," says Ramming.

Then came an early indication of trouble. Ramming tells of going by the school's business office to ask for receipts for her donations, for tax deductions. A worker excused herself and returned with the business manager.

"We really don't want you to do that anymore, because he didn't tell anybody that he got money from you," Ramming quotes the business manager as saying. "We don't know anything about it, and it puts us in an awkward place."

Knapp recalls that Jeanette would press cash upon him for team expenditures, and he would return unused amounts to her. But there was also a stream of increasingly large gifts from the Rammings that the coach and his wife say they reluctantly accepted.

Jeanette remembers Knapp repeating like a mantra, "I can't make a living here. I've got these four kids, and between the two of us we barely make $60,000." (Shari Knapp is a paid secretary to the school's headmaster, and the four children attend the school tuition-free.)

After Knapp told her he was out of groceries till payday, Ramming went to Luby's restaurant, bought several hundred dollars' worth of meal coupons and discreetly left them on his desk.

However, food coupons were the least of the largess heaped upon the coach and his family by the Rammings. Gifts included diamond and sapphire wedding bands for the Knapps, $7,637 of furniture for the Knapps' new home and $5,700 more in furniture they claim Knapp added to the Rammings' credit card bill. The Knapps say the additional amount went on an account co-signed by the Rammings which the coach is currently paying off.

The Rammings say they also gave Knapp $2,000 for his car payments and $800 that Ramming says was intended to buy one of the football players a car. When the purchase fell through, she told the coach to use the money on his house payment.

Jeanette says Knapp's constant complaints that he could not support his family finally led her and her husband to set up a nonprofit athletic association to benefit him.

"I told Rock maybe he could be executive director and draw a small salary, and some expenses could be paid," says Jeanette.

However, the largess that would impact the football program the most, and lead to eventual un-Christian confrontations, came when the Rammings pledged $20,000 from their family trust to finance tuition for football players. Knapp had his war chest. The recruiting efforts escalated.

Thou shalt not use financial incentives to recruit players. So say the commandments of the Salado-based Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools. The rules forbid any encouragement of students "to change schools for the purpose of participating in a TAPPS activity by offering the student or the parents cash, waiver of tuition, board or lodging, transportation, a job or other valuable considerations to induce a student to enroll at a participant school."

That restriction was etched into TAPPS rules when Rebecca Phillips and her husband met Knapp while he was scouting a youth football game at the Inwood Dad's Club league. Their son Joshua played for Knapp in 1996. The coach wanted to know why they were not enrolling their other talented son, David, at Northwest.

Phillips was bluntly honest. She didn't think the cost of tuition was worth what David would receive in terms of an education and exposure to college recruiters.

In a statement filed later with school officials, Phillips and her husband say Knapp assured them that David could receive a scholarship under the Choice for Children program for underprivileged students, or from other funds Knapp had access to with no questions asked.

Phillips says she told the coach that she would not apply for low-income assistance because the questions on the application insulted her. Knapp, she says, replied, "Well, that's fine. I've got people that can do this without any questions asked."

"That sweetened the pot for me," says Phillips.
Knapp says that conversation never occurred, and that he told Phillips there was no guarantee that her son would receive such a scholarship. But her son David was one of the athletes who received a grant underwritten by the Rammings.

Knapp adds that since David was in junior high at the time, TAPPS rules allowed him to directly recruit Phillips. Offering free tuition as an incentive is another matter, however.

Jeanette Ramming says the coach told her that his handpicked admissions director at the school could get the players enrolled with no problems. Knapp says he told the Rammings the recipients had to go through a scholarship committee over which he had no control. Still, the players that the Rammings were told would receive scholarships did in fact get them.

Phillips took her complaints of recruiting violations and dishonesty to the school officials. They sided with Knapp, and she removed her son from the school.

Phillips, in a statement disputed by Knapp, says the coach instructed his recruits to tell admission interviewers that they wanted a Christian education, not that they were coming to the school because they wanted to play football.

"That's what they were instructed to do: lie," says Phillips. "Now David is an open and honest guy. I reared him that way. I told him, 'Look at what the lies get you -- they come back on you.' "

Houston Police Sergeant Detra Gobert may have gotten an unauthorized peek at Rock Knapp's secret playbook that night at the Rammings, but she'd already seen some disturbing indications that her own son had been enlisted as one of his chief recruiters.

Keith Lewis, then a junior, was among those included for a scholarship this year, even though he had paid tuition to attend the school since the seventh grade. But Lewis, a good performer on the field, was even better off the gridiron. At the coach's direction, according to his mother, he had recruited players at other schools for Knapp. In fact, Gobert says the coach once told her that Keith had "recruited half my football team."

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.

However, the Rammings' financial support continued. Through their nonprofit group headed by the coach, they paid $5,000 to underwrite Knapp's first Bayou Bowl football spectacular at Rice Stadium in December 1997. The all-star game was considered successful, drawing college recruiters and scholarship offers for some players.

The Rammings say the coach, against their wishes, then set up an all-star basketball game. The Ramming-funded foundation had no cash reserves, although the event drew a big crowd to the Houston Baptist University field house.

The couple say they reluctantly agreed to finance more scholarships for 1998, until their relationship with Knapp exploded after an incident at a preseason practice.

Jeanette Ramming learned from players that an assistant to Knapp, unhappy that a student was not in a correct playing stance, kicked the youngster. She and her husband demanded that Knapp and school officials fire the assistant. When the school refused to do that and made the man school chaplain, the Rammings withdrew their son from the program and canceled their scholarship funding.

The dispute over the assistant blossomed into a battle over another position: Knapp's coaching job.

An attorney for the Rammings began sorting out expenditures by the nonprofit sports association after Knapp resigned as president. Receipts could not be accounted for on the all-star basketball game. The Knapps say the money was turned over to a secretary working for Jeanette Ramming. The Rammings say they never got the money and have asked Houston police to investigate. Knapp denies any improper conduct and school officials accuse the Rammings of "scurrilous innuendos."

The Rammings also rallied other parents to their cause and even hired private detective John Moritz to do what Knapp critic Mahan had wanted the school to do much earlier: delve into the coach's background.

Moritz conducted phone interviews with two officials at Knapp's former school in Louisiana, Westminster principal Dennis Chadeayne and Knapp's successor, athletic director David Bonham. Chadeayne said Knapp was a shoe salesman in Chicago when Westminster hired him in 1991.

Chadeayne, a retired Baton Rouge oil company executive, told Moritz that, soon after Knapp's hiring, "all of a sudden there were three or four hired guns showed up in the way of athletes, kids who were certainly not from the traditional background or fit the traditional profile of kids who normally came to our school.

"And believe it or not, every one of them was a heck of a football player. There was a quarterback, a running back, a monster lineman, a couple of linebackers and a couple of others."

Controversy followed Knapp, Chadeayne says. "He was basically a man who would answer to nobody. By strength of personality and physical presence he would roll over people. The kids who played for him would mostly have died for him."

In what could be a verbatim description of the current dispute at the Houston school, Chadeayne says Knapp built a cult following from players and a select group of athletic boosters.

"They were very loyal to Ted. It brought a lot of division in our school, serious division between the instructional or academic people and athletics."

Chadeayne says Knapp left when the school refused his demands to drop programs -- such as soccer, hiking and camping -- which competed with football for resources. "We literally called his bluff; we didn't cave to his demands."

He was glad to see Knapp go. "Probably in another year it would have been him or me. I had no working relationship with him or control as high school principal."

Knapp insists he had an offer on the table to stay at Westminster when he left and he was on good terms with the school administration and had many supporters on the staff and board. As to why Chadeayne would say negative things about him, both Knapp and his wife say they have no idea.

The background review also revealed that Knapp's diploma and master's degree from Faith Theological Seminary are no more than products of six-month correspondence courses. Knapp jokingly refers to them as a "blue light special." They do not qualify him for a Texas teaching certification. Knapp says Northwest Academy administrators were well aware of that when they hired him.

Asked whether he has ever played on a pro team, Knapp answers no and explains he had not listed it on his resume. But had he told people that he played for the 49ers?

"Uh, I have told people that I have gone out to San Francisco to try out as a free agent and did not make it."

And what about the comments to people that he played during a strike-shortened season and was injured in a game against the Oakland Raiders?

"I -- I did tell players and coaches I went out to the West Coast and tried out and was injured in a game, which is not the truth."

He says he has cleared the air about the lie. "I have dealt with it the best that I think a man can deal with it: by telling everyone, players, coaches."

Since his name is nowhere to be found on the San Francisco 49ers' list of every player in team history, Knapp has no choice but to tell the truth.

Rock Knapp, his wife, Shari, and lawyer Hilary Borow met the Houston Press for an interview at Houston Christian High School, the former Northwest Academy, but they would say little. Knapp displayed both tears and occasional flashes of anger. As for the Rammings, he said, "I love their son Temple, and I wish with all my heart he was still at Houston Christian playing football."

By contrast, he said Temple's parents had made his life "absolute hell," disrupted his mission of working with young people and even endangered his pregnant wife's health. Knapp, who had not been on campus the previous week, is under treatment from a health care professional for unspecified problems resulting from the situation. "Let's not go into that," murmured his attorney.

Clad in a blue school pullover, Knapp lamented that he had hoped the controversy with the Rammings would go away without media publicity, but that it only seemed to be getting worse. Leaning across the table, he fixed this reporter with a glare and warned that he was "really angry" that "they had brought the stinking kids into this."

"I love working with teenage boys," declared the coach. His wife averred, "it's our ministry."

Knapp flatly denied he'd ever cheated or broken TAPPS regulations in recruiting football players. He said he never told players to lie about their recruitment. On the advice of his attorney, the coach reluctantly declined to answer any other specific questions.

The Knapps later requested a chance to provided detailed answers to the allegations against him. When they met with the Houston Press the day before Easter, Knapp seemed a different person. Affable, collected and occasionally witty, he even joked about his educational credentials.

The coach insisted he has never violated TAPPS rules and that several athletes he wanted were turned down by Northwest Academy administrators because they could not meet school standards.

"I have been to the state championship the last three years in a row," said Knapp, thrusting out a hand and spreading his fingers. "No rings. If we'd have taken the kids to rig the program and had those kids come in, I would be wearing, unequivocally, three state championship rings."

Knapp traces his problems to the Rammings' anger over the kicking incident in practice. "I believe this entire affair began because Jeanette was vehement about me firing a particular coach, and I said no."

The coach just wants to get back to the students and continue the pursuit of that elusive state championship.

"I just want this to be over," he said wearily.

Knapp predicted to the Houston Press that the school would stand behind him 100 percent. Sure enough, a letter to that effect was forthcoming 24 hours later from Bisagno's replacement as board chairman, Pastor David McKechnie of Grace Presbyterian Church.

"I love sports," declares McKechnie, in the missive addressed to school staff and supporters. "Athletics is an important catalyst for developing character. Thankfully, that is what's happening on our campus under coach Ted Knapp's leadership."

As with other officials, McKechnie pointedly disassociates himself from any previous complaints. He says the new Houston Christian is separate and distinct from Northwest Academy and that he was not associated with that school.

"I am satisfied that all allegations have been thoroughly investigated. In the absence of any other information, I stand by Coach Knapp and his wife, Shari," concludes McKechnie. "It is my prayer that innuendos will not deter Houston Christian High School from pursuing its God-given opportunity to provide the very best education possible for the future leaders of America."

So it seems the Almighty is a solid ally of the Mustangs' mentor.
One parent put part of the blame on the Rammings and their money for bringing troubled kids to the school. "The school didn't have the resources to bring all those kids in until Jeanette started writing checks."

That theme was also carried by Brad Bracewell, a banker who became chairman of Houston Christian's administrative board after the controversy began.

"My impression is no one was holding a gun to the Rammings' heads," Bracewell says. "I think they were trying to buy the program, and when they got crosswise with Ted, it wasn't such a good situation anymore.

Jeanette Ramming says she and her husband hold themselves accountable for the financial influence. "Part of the damage that was done here we did with our checkbook. And we're very remorseful."

But the Rammings refuse to allow the controversy to fade with Knapp retaining his position. "The only thing we know to do is to right it, by turning the lights up till all the facts are disclosed," she says. "And everybody has a chance to step up to their responsibility as well."

She says Bisagno met with the couple late last month and offered to get church members to donate money to replace the missing gate receipts. The Rammings say they want nothing more than an accounting of the missing money and for Knapp to be held responsible for his actions.

That apparently won't happen.
"We've done everything imaginable to try to make them happy," says Bracewell. "We visited with them on the phone, we went to see them, asked, 'What can we do to bury the hatchet.' "

Houston Christian's new headmaster, Steven Livingston, says procedures are now in place to make sure the school fully complies with TAPPS regulations. School staff is now forbidden to accept personal gifts from school supporters, he says.

The allegations are only rumor and innuendo, Bracewell says, so there is full support for Knapp.

"Do we have a rogue elephant on staff that the current board and headmaster are kinda winking at?" asks Bracewell. "No, we don't. Has there been one in the past? Gee, maybe, we don't know. We've heard all this stuff."

To the observation that the same elephant is still athletic director, Bracewell replies, "It's the same elephant. But its a new board, and a new headmaster, and he ain't behaving that way now."

TAPPS Director Ed Burleson says his association relies on member schools to police themselves, but that after Houston Christian is finished examining Knapp's conduct, TAPPS may have some questions.

Becky Phillips, whose son David is now at Second Baptist, figures it's just business as usual with a hear-no-evil, see-no-evil school administration.

"It's a Christian school," she concludes. "They should have been held to higher standards. We rear our children that way. The evidence was there, and they chose to just sweep it under the rug."

Detra Gobert, whose son Keith remains devoted to Coach Knapp, sees the Northwest Academy saga as a case of misplaced priorities.

"I think there are some great things about that school," says Gobert, "but I believe that Coach Knapp at some point lost sight and wanted to win so bad that that was what was important.... Winning became more important than honesty and anything else."


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