Off-Field Pursuits

A Central Catholic football coach was previously fired over sexual misconduct allegations.

Seventeen years ago, David Douglas High School fired its varsity girls’ softball coach after a 16-year-old player accused him of sexually assaulting her during a trip to a summer tournament in Idaho.

The coach, Patrick Jay Wallace, then 37, declined to answer questions from school officials about the incident. David Douglas' principal oversaw the investigation, and the district fired Wallace after concluding his behavior constituted "poor judgment" and created "an opportunity for inappropriate behavior and the appearance of impropriety."

The reason for Wallace's firing, while rumored at the school, was never made public. A municipal prosecutor in Post Falls, Idaho, charged Wallace with battery, a misdemeanor, but later dropped the charge.

Today, Wallace is on the coaching staff of the Central Catholic High School football team, ranked No. 1 in the state.

And the man who runs Central Catholic, President John Harrington, was the David Douglas principal whose investigation of Wallace in 1997 led to the coach's firing.

Documents released by David Douglas to WW under the state's public records law show Harrington oversaw the investigation of Wallace and made detailed, handwritten notes based on interviews with the girl, her grandmother and another coach.

The former student, now 33, has come forward now only after recently learning Wallace was working as a coach, and that Harrington was again Wallace's boss.

"I don't want Jay Wallace to ever work with kids again," the former student says. "He lost that privilege."

Wallace tells WW the allegations were untrue and that the Idaho prosecutor dropped the charge against him because the student's story was inconsistent.

Wallace also says he discussed the incident with Central Catholic athletic officials when they hired him in 2005 and did so again this week after WW raised questions.

"I've talked to people at Central, and we all seem to be OK with where we are," he says.

Harrington says he was never certain what happened in Idaho between Wallace and the student, but he was sufficiently uncomfortable with the information he had to support firing Wallace in 1997. "I took it very, very seriously," Harrington says. "I would not push this under the rug."

Harrington says Wallace has since passed at least one background check to get a job at Central Catholic.

"He wouldn't be here if we weren't comfortable," he says.

Central Catholic board chairman Jim Mountain didn't respond to WW's request for an interview.

In 1997, the girl was a David Douglas sophomore who lived with her grandmother. She played on the junior varsity softball team when Wallace invited her to join a non-school summer softball league team, the Red Hots. The former student says Wallace gave her rides home from practice and invited her to his house for a Fourth of July celebration.

The summer league team traveled to Idaho for a tournament on July 25, 1997. The girl couldn't afford lodging, so Wallace suggested they share a room at a Best Western in Post Falls.

"I didn't have any hesitations, because I sincerely believed that we were building a father-daughter relationship," the ex-student says now.

An Idaho police report and documents from David Douglas spell out the girl's accusations.

After the first day of softball games, Wallace asked the girl to lie down on his hotel bed with him. She said Wallace then cradled her, holding her tightly. She told police she felt uncomfortable but that she also trusted Wallace.

Wallace started to rub her back under her shirt. She "knew it was wrong" and "felt like crying," she told police, but she did nothing because she was "shocked." Eventually he stopped.

The following night, Wallace began the "same routine."

"She told me," an Idaho detective wrote, "she knew her original feeling the day before when Wallace was touching her was correct (that it was wrong he was touching her) and she felt stupid she was in the same situation."

She said Wallace then touched her breast before getting up from the bed.

Two days later, after she returned to Portland, the student wrote a letter, dated July 28, 1997, to David Douglas Principal John Harrington about her experience with Wallace in Idaho.

"At this tournament he physically sexually assaulted me," she wrote in a letter released to WW. "I don't want to go into details but he held me, put my hand on his chest, and touched my breast. I am going to file a report or whatever I have to do. Thank you for your time."

Harrington launched an investigation and summarized the allegations in a letter to the coach.

"[A]t your suggestion, the two of you laid on the bed together, you put your arm around her, kissed her cheek, rubbed her back, and put your hand up under her shirt," he wrote to Wallace on Aug. 1, 1997.

Harrington noted that Wallace, on the advice of a lawyer, declined to respond to the school district's questions.

"If you continue to decline to talk to me, I will conclude my investigation based on information available from other sources," Harrington added.

Wallace tells WW he was following his attorney's orders. "It was not like I was admitting to anything," he says.

On Sept. 11, 1997, Ron Russell, then superintendent of the David Douglas School District, fired Wallace. In a letter to Wallace, Russell wrote that the evidence showed "at a minimum, poor judgment on your part."

The girl reported the incident to Portland police, who referred the matter to police in Post Falls. A city prosecutor, Joel Ryan, charged Wallace in October 1997 but dismissed the charge in April 1998. Ryan didn't respond to WW's request for an interview.

Today, the former student says a close family friend of hers mistakenly told police she didn't want to pursue charges. She says her story was consistent throughout.

"If I had had a wiser, healthier family, they would have hired a lawyer and pursued it more fully," the former student says now. "It was just me the whole time doing the best I could to represent myself. It's really sad, actually, that I was so alone."

The former student says she faced a backlash from her softball teammates, who blamed her for getting Wallace fired.

"The girls blamed me for their coach being gone," the former student says. "It was the most isolating and horrendous experience."

She says she tried to commit suicide at 17 and barely graduated high school in 1999.

Harrington was named high school principal of the year by the Confederation of Oregon School Administrators in 2000. He retired from David Douglas in 2004. He took the job of president at Central Catholic in 2008. (Harrington, father of former University of Oregon and NFL quarterback Joey Harrington, is a 1966 graduate of Central Catholic and a former teacher there.)

Wallace says Harrington played no role in getting him his coaching job at Central Catholic in 2005. Wallace, who was also a football coach at David Douglas, had among his players Central Catholic's current head football coach, Steve Pyne.

The former student says she has no doubts about telling her story about Wallace again.

"He took advantage of my vulnerabilities," the former student says. "He didn't realize that I'm a survivor and fighter and always have been." 

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