Two years ago Bob Shannon, who had won six state football championships and the 1985 USA Today national title at East St. Louis (III.) High, quit his job in protest, charging that school supervisors were robbing students in the hardscrabble district by mismanaging funds (SI, Oct. 30, 1995). Last week federal prosecutors announced the indictment of the school's athletic director, Arthur May, on four counts of embezzlement and three counts of making false statements to the IRS. The indictment claims that from 1993 to '96, May embezzled more than $10,000 a year from the strapped East St. Louis school district, which was so ill-managed that control of its finances was handed over to an outside oversight committee in '95. (May did not return phone calls from SI.)
The oversight committee had been unsuccessfully looking into financial corruption at the school district when Shannon publicly accused May of mismanaging money earmarked for football and blasted the district for idly standing by. Investigators said his willingness to quit after coaching the Flyers for 19 years resulted in dozens of anonymous tips about possible corruption in the school district. "The reason the FBI was able to do this investigation was Bob Shannon," Richard Mark, head of the oversight committee, said last week. "Things are getting better in East St. Louis because of the stand he took."
The Flyers went to the Class 5A semifinals in 1995 after Shannon's departure, and they were 9-2 last year. Shannon, meanwhile, has taken his .858 winning percentage and moved down the road to conference rival Alton (III.) High, where this fall he starts his second season as coach of the woeful Red Birds. "This program was at an alltime low when I got here," he says. "We were 2-7 last year, but we're going to win some games. I want these kids to feel what we had at East St. Louis, to feel winning. I've been fortunate enough to win a lot. Now I'm starting over."
Still, Shannon's thoughts are very much with his old school and its community. "I'm not happy about the news [of the indictment], but it doesn't surprise me. If they clean it up over there at East St. Louis, that would be my biggest win of all."