By Ryan S. Clark
MIRAMAR -- Matt Strout, the former coach at the center of a wide-ranging investigation into Miramar High’s football program, falsified portions of his resume when applying for the school’s head coaching job in January, the Sun Sentinel has learned through an extensive background check.
Among the inaccuracies discovered on Strout’s resume, obtained by the Sun Sentinel from Broward County Public Schools: Strout claimed to have earned several college degrees, including a bachelor’s degree in business management from Ohio State University, a bachelor’s in electromechanical engineering from the University of Kentucky and a master’s in business administration from Rutgers.
Strout did not earn any degrees from Kentucky or Rutgers or attend those institutions, according to the universities’ registrar’s offices.
He also claimed he played linebacker for the Buckeyes while at Ohio State, specifically as a “member of the 1997 Big Ten championship and Rose Bowl champion” team. But no records could be found to substantiate his claim, according to the university’s athletic department.
Miramar High officials, who last week admitted to the district and the Florida High School Athletic Association wrongdoing with the school’s football program, declined to disclose whether the school administration checked Strout’s background and vetted his resume prior to offering him the job as coach.
Former Principal Brian Faso, who hired Strout, did not respond to multiple calls for comment. Former coach and Athletic Director Damon Cogdell, who led the search committee that recommended Strout, declined comment.
Strout also declined to speak with the Sun Sentinel. His attorney, Charles Eiss, had no comment.
According to photocopied transcripts on file for Strout obtained from Broward Schools on Friday, a Matthew Lee Rodgers-Strout attended classes at Ohio State from fall 1997 to winter 1999 and graduated on Dec. 12, 1999, with a B.A. in business management.
Records searches for Matthew Lee Strout — his legal name, according to Ohio’s Department of Health — and searches for Matthew Rodgers, the name Strout went by during high school, returned no record of enrollment or a degree at Ohio State. The university registrar’s office confirmed no one by either name attended or graduated from Ohio State.
Broward Schools spokeswoman Cathleen Brennan told the Sun Sentinel that schools have the flexibility to develop hiring practices which “meet the specific needs of each school community,” including the hiring of such high-profile and influential positions as football coaches. While hires by Broward Schools require candidates to undergo background and criminal-history checks, Brennan said, vetting potential coaches is the responsibility of the individual schools.
Questions about Strout’s ability to oversee one of the most visible high school football programs in the nation first surfaced in late September, when a number of Miramar players’ parents submitted a letter to school officials. After outlining a list of complaints the parents had against Strout, the memo said, “Under Coach Strout’s leadership, all the prior hard work, dedication and values that were displayed in the Miramar football program have quickly deteriorated.”
When he applied for the top job coaching the Patriots, Strout had impressed the school’s search committee with his university degrees and extensive experience.
“[Strout] told me directly he went to Ohio State,” said interim Miramar coach A.J. Scott, a member of the committee which recommended the school hire Strout. “We were under the impression he went to Ohio State and played at Ohio State.”
OSU, a top team in the Big Ten Conference and No. 6 in the current College Football Playoffs Rankings, is among the few major-conference football programs outside the Atlantic Coast Conference and Southeastern Conference with a recruiting foothold in South Florida.
Strout’s resume and claims about his familiarity with the Buckeyes played a pivotal role in his being chosen to replace Cogdell as the Patriots’ head coach. Cogdell stepped down at Miramar on Jan. 8 to take a position on the coaching staff at West Virginia University.
District Athletics and Activities Director Damian Huttenhoff said last week the district plans to take a closer look into Strout’s background. On Tuesday, district police opened a joint investigation related to Mira-mar High that could include assistance from the Broward Sheriff’s Office and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.
Strout’s resume also shows he has nine years of experience coaching high school football. The Sun Sentinel found his tenure as a prep football coach amounted to two seasons — one spent at South Miami and one at Miramar, when he helped oversee the offensive line before applying to become head coach.
Strout, 38, graduated from Graves County High School in Kentucky in 1994. Ten years later, as a volunteer baseball coach at the school, he claimed he graduated from Ohio State and had played baseball while there, according to R.B. Mays, Graves’ assistant principal from 2004 to 2012.
In his Miramar resume, Strout said he oversaw Graves’ football team’s offensive line from 2002-05. Mays, who said he went through school and athletics records and spoke with Graves coaches, told the Sun Sentinel Strout never coached football at the school.
Strout came under scrutiny at Graves shortly after he began volunteering with the baseball team in 2004, according to Mays. Kentucky has a summer dead period during which high school coaches are prevented from working with players. Mays said he received a letter accusing Strout of coaching a team during the dead period.
When Mays and the school began investigating, he said, “We looked at his resume.”
“We saw a degree from Ohio State and that he played at Ohio State.”
When Graves officials inquired about Strout’s degree and enrollment dates, the university had no record of Strout having attended or graduating, Mays said.
“When we found out, we let him go,” Mays said. “We told him to be on his way.”
Strout does have college credits to his name, though not from any of the institutions he claims. The Sun Sentinel confirmed Strout attended Paducah Community College (now Western Kentucky Community and Technical College) from fall 2003 to fall 2005. Heather Baber, a spokeswoman for the school, said Strout did not earn a degree there.
Coach Jack Haskins, under whom Strout claimed on his resume to have coached at Lone Oak High in Paducah in 2006, told the Sun Sentinel Strout was not an assistant coach on the team. Nor had Haskins ever heard of Strout.
Strout also claimed to have worked as an assistant football coach at Washington High School in Massillon, Ohio, serving as a linebackers coach from 2000-01. But Massillon Athletic Director Jason Hall and Assistant Athletic Director Brian Pa-chis refuted that claim, telling the Sun Sentinel they’ve never heard of Strout and had no record of him coaching at the school.
Strout did earn a state coaching certification, which Florida’s Education Department requires for paid coaches. Strout’s certification, which he listed on his resume, was verified through Broward Schools’ public information office.
Miramar players and parents protested outside Broward Schools offices last week, following Miramar High’s decision to cut short the team’s season after admitting involvement with impermissible benefits related to the football program.
“Why did [Miramar] choose Strout? I cannot tell you,” his replacement, A.J. Scott, told the Sun Sentinel. “I didn’t have the final say.”
Scott was joined on the head coach search committee by fellow assistant coach Eugene Spence and several high-profile Patriots players, including cornerbacks Jeffrey Hill and Tyrek Cole, guard Leeward Brown and running back Alex Anderson. At the head of the panel sat Cogdell. Multiple sources said Cogdell relayed the committee’s recommendation of Strout to Faso, who hired Strout and had oversight over background checks.
Broward Schools, aided by the Florida High School Athletic Association, opened an investigation into Mira-mar and its football program in late October, after allegations made by Strout came to light following his resignation.
His accusations included rampant academic fraud, ineligible players and cash and gifts given out, he said, “to keep players happy.”
Sports | Nov. 22, 2014 | Page 1A, 12A
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