The Coast News Group
An investigation into misconduct on the Vista High School football team has concluded. Photo by Laura Place
An investigation into misconduct on the Vista High School football team has concluded. Photo by Laura Place
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VHS football investigation finds pattern of misconduct

VISTA — Vista Unified School District leaders notified the community Friday that an independent investigation into the Vista High School football program found a pattern of misconduct among a small number of team members and that new coaching staff will be in place.

District leaders launched the months-long investigation in September of 2022 after an incident in the school’s locker room drew widespread outrage from the community.

A video of the alleged incident, which occurred in late August, showed students in the locker room forcibly carrying a 14-year-old victim into a separate area where he was forced to the ground and surrounded, with students saying “rape him” in the background.

While officials with the school district and San Diego County Sheriff’s Department stated soon after that they determined that a sexual assault did not occur, district officials said it was clear that the victim had suffered “physical and emotional assault.”

An investigation, led by an unnamed outside investigator, into the culture of the football program continued for over three months, with several athletes and students interviewed during the process before an update was shared Friday.

“The outcome of the investigation indicated a pattern of inappropriate and unacceptable behavior occurring among a small number of football players,” Superintendent Matt Doyle said. “While we are not able to publicly discuss details regarding discipline, I assure our community that consequences have been and are currently being imposed on a number of student athletes in accordance with district policies, CIF regulations, and the law.”

Doyle’s office did not immediately respond to inquiries from The Coast News regarding the specific actions discovered in the investigation.

Back in September, two students believed to be the perpetrators in the locker room incident were restricted from participating in football activities but permitted to continue attending school.

Vista High School’s varsity head football coach Dave Bottom was placed on administrative leave early in the investigation, and a freshman coach was let go. In his Friday statement, Doyle also confirmed that the district would be “restructuring the VHS football coaching staff” and starting the recruitment process for new coaches in the coming weeks.

Circulation of the video and initial news of the incident caused days of disruption in the district, including students protesting outside the district office, after-school activities being canceled as well as the football program forfeiting a series of games in September.

According to Doyle, the district implemented a series of programs and training immediately after the incident was brought to their attention to “change the culture” of the football program.

These efforts included an athletics and sportsmanship workshop, a guest speaker to address culture and expectations, implicit bias training for student-athletes and coaches, and engaging all football players in restorative circles with experts from the National Conflict Resolution Center.