Willie Stewart, who coached Eastern High School to two Interhigh League football championships in the last five years before being named head coach at Anacostia this year, has been accused of recruiting violations and conducting an illegal practice, it was learned yesterday.
Otto Jordan, D.C. Public Schools athletic director, made the charges against Stewart and declared Anacostia ineligible for any football titles this year.
Jordan said he will recommend to Dr. William Brown, assistant superintendent of Region D, which includes Anacostia, that Stewart be suspended. Brown said his office has not decided whether to suspend Stewart from his coaching duties.
"I felt Stewart was in violation and took action," Jordan said. "I found out he had influenced eight of his players to transfer from Eastern to Anacostia and that's too much of a coincidence.
"I saw Anacostia's team practicing Aug. 12, three days before the legal beginning practice date. About 60 players, in uniform, were working out. There were no coaches out there but the school was open and the players were going back and forth. I think I know an organized practice when I see one."
Stewart has informed his players of the situation and said he would appeal immediately if suspended.
"He (Jordan) claims I held an unofficial practice. All he had to do was stop by four other schools en route to Anacostia and see them doing the same thing," he said. "We always play a Virginia school the first week and had received permission in the past from Jordan for early practices. This year we didn't get it so the kids were working out on their own.
"And I surely didn't influence any kids to transfer. They left Eastern to enroll in special courses here. No one made up false addresses or did anything illegal. These are good students and excellent college prospects. If there was a problem with them transferring, the region shouldn't have allowed it."
Stewart was at practice yesterday. His players did not speak to a reporter at the request of Principal Clyde Gray.
Stewart was named head coach at Anacostia in June by then-principal Jerry Coward, but Tom Hargrove, who coached at Ballou last season and had transferred to Anacostia, said he felt he deserved the position because of seniority and filed a grievance against the school system.Hargrove, who declined to comment on the situation, is awaiting the outcome of his grievance.
Gray replaced Coward in August and again named Stewart as head coach.
"I came on board late and I had to make an immediate decision because football practice was beginning," Gray said. "I looked at the coaching credentials of both and decided Stewart was best suited for the position. I did everything within the legal bounds.
"As far as the transfers go, that was done before I arrived. I don't know what action I would have taken had I been principal then."
Should Stewart be suspended today, Gray will have to name an interim coach for the rest of the year. Anacostia (1-2) plays at McKinley (2-0) today at 3:30.
Gray said he is concerned about Anacostia being disqualified from title contention and will study the reasons to see if his school merits such a punishment.
"Actually, I have a problem with this entire situation." he said. "I'll have to look at everything before I make any decisions."
In key games tonight, Groveton (2-0) plays at Edison (3-0) in a Virginia AAA Gunston District game; Herndon (2-0) travels to Great Falls opponent Madison (2-1); O'Connell (1-2) faces McNamara (2-0) in a Metro Conference game at Washington-Lee, and Largo (2-0) plays at High Point (2-0) in a Prince George's AA game.