St. Mary’s High School announced Thursday that longtime girls’ basketball coach Mike Burkett, who was placed on administrative leave due to an allegation of misconduct, has been reinstated effective immediately.
Burkett was placed on leave in mid-to-late October, as first reported by The Gazette in November, and an interim coach was placed in charge during his absence.
“We have completed our investigation and have found no evidence supporting the allegations against coach Burkett,” a release stated Thursday. “We are pleased to have coach Burkett back on the Pirates sidelines and look forward to continuation of a special season as our girls attempt to repeat as state champions.”
His immediate reinstatement allows Burkett, who is heading into his 20th season as head coach, to conduct his first practice Thursday. He was placed on administrative leave prior to the season and was legally not allowed to be with the team until the investigation concluded.
St. Mary’s principal Dave Hyland said the police and St. Mary’s High School were involved in the investigation and all allegations proved to be false. Burkett’s lawyer Patrick Mika said no further information about the nature of the allegations would be released as he does not believe it to be appropriate based on the findings of the investigation.
“We live in a world and a culture where people are quick to accuse somebody of something without any proof, verification or factual support,” Mika said. “It takes one simple accusation to create an air of suspicion around someone who has dedicated over 20 years of his life coaching and mentoring young people, and has been nothing but a model human being and mentor.”
Mika said the school worked with law enforcement and Burkett fully cooperated with the "comprehensive" investigation that included interviews of students, parents and other individuals.
“They did a great job thoroughly investigating and concluded that there was absolutely no foundation and no factual support or truth to the accusation that was made,” Mika said.
The Pirates, who are reigning Class 3A state champions, are undefeated this season under the direction of interim head coach Kathy Hanshew. St. Mary’s has dominated through five games, outscoring opponents 336-181. The Pirates are in the midst of a long holiday break, and will be back on the court Jan. 4 at Vanguard.
The Pirates have been ranked No. 1 in the Colorado High School Activities Association 3A girls’ basketball poll all season, last week earning 11 of the 12 first-place votes.
Burkett, who last year led St. Mary’s to the program’s first state championship, was highly touted by his players and community.
"They flat-out love the guy," The Gazette columnist Paul Klee wrote after last year’s state championship. "All four of the Pirates I spoke with said, in some form or another, the huge, sweet trophy they lugged to his bus is for 'Coach Mike.'"
Hyland told The Gazette in November that despite being on leave from his duties as coach, Burkett was still involved to help "maintain the continuity of the program" in his absence from the sideline.
On Nov. 12 Burkett completed The Gazette Preps basketball preview questionnaire stating his team is young but capable of great things.