This is Part Two in a four-part series. Read Part One, Part Three and Part Four

FieldTurf USA turned failure into opportunity when dozens of its artificial turf fields quickly fell apart at the region’s public schools in recent years.

Though customers paid $450,000 to $800,000 per field for “the best” and “the next generation of engineering excellence,” certain FieldTurf fields frayed, faded and shed after only a few football seasons, years before the eight-year warranty ran out.

FieldTurf Duraspine Promo

The field failures – caused by a defect in the turf grass blades in the company’s popular Duraspine field – raised safety concerns for some schools and spurred districts to seek free warranty replacements from the Canadian turf manufacturer.

FieldTurf’s response came with fewer apologies than “offers” and “opportunities” for schools to upgrade their turf field to the latest and greatest for another $25,000 to $300,000, records show.


We Stand Up for You. Will You Stand Up for Us?

Some school districts took that offer to avoid getting more defective turf and to finally get a quality product. Schools like Carlsbad High, Fallbrook High, Valley Center High and Mesa College all paid FieldTurf a second time to replace defective fields that were still under warranty.

No one held the turf company line and wrung more money from local customers than regional FieldTurf salesman Tim Coury.

Coury also employed legally questionable methods to get new fields built, public records obtained by Voice of San Diego show.

The worst example was found in emails produced by Oceanside Unified.

Coury emailed a teacher he knew at El Camino High School in Oceanside, Scott Wing, on Dec. 3, 2009, to try to get a new field contract, and he offered something extra.

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Wing declined Coury’s offer a couple hours later, responding, “Just left you a voicemail. No way on the money. Just trying to make sure the best people get the job – I’m sure that’s you.”

Oceanside Unified ultimately ended up going with another turf company for its fields, and officials said they were unaware of Coury’s offer to Wing.

Coury did not respond to repeated requests for comment.

“FieldTurf is dedicated to the highest level of ethical business practices and we hold our employees – and our external contractors and independent contractors, such as Mr. Coury – accountable when it comes to meeting these standards,” the company said in a statement. “We are still looking into this allegation. We will investigate this matter as efficiently as possible.”

When FieldTurf confirmed the fields at Granite Hills High in El Cajon and Mount Miguel High in Spring Valley needed warranty replacements for premature deterioration, Coury pushed an upgrade in an April 2013 email.

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Grossmont Union High School District declined and took the free fields only.

At San Diego State University, athletic department emails show Coury tried to make a free warranty field replacement contingent on the purchase of a new field for a different area of campus. Coury called it a “2 for 1 offer” and “a fantastic opportunity.”

At first, FieldTurf wanted the job of converting a parking lot on campus to a recreational sports field. When the Associated Students of SDSU chose another turf company, FieldTurf set its sights on a natural grass field at the center of the campus. Coury asked Tim Baron, then-assistant athletic director of facilities, for another meeting to discuss his offer.

Baron wrote Coury Jan. 20, “Any creative ideas as I know that you are looking for some new business in order to provide this replacement field?”

Coury emailed Jim Sterk, SDSU’s director of intercollegiate athletics, Feb. 3 with “great news” about a warranty replacement for one of the practice football fields. “I have the ok to replace/upgrade field 610 asap with our latest technology!!”

Baron wrote Sterk shortly thereafter reiterating that Coury “will only be willing to do this if he can turf the (grass) ENS 700 field in the middle of campus.”

The upper football practice field was recently replaced for free by FieldTurf. The university only paid $32,000 for cooler infill cushioning. The field at the middle of campus remains natural grass for now. Multiple inquiries yielded no further clarity from San Diego State about the project or offer.

FieldTurf sued its grass supplier in March 2011, blaming it for the defect that caused field failures across the country. FieldTurf demanded money from TenCate to help pay for field replacements sought by customers.

Three years later, in May 2014, the parties settled for an undisclosed sum. Public records show FieldTurf continued to push districts to pay for an upgraded field when their fields failed in the years that followed.

FieldTurf officials say they didn’t notify all 3,000 Duraspine customers about the defect and settlement because not every field has posed problems. They estimate just 250 Duraspine fields had problems resulting from the defect, or about 8 percent.

That number only includes schools that obtained field replacements under the warranty.

It does not include Duraspine fields still in place today at schools like Madison High, Muirlands Middle School and Scripps Ranch High in San Diego, that have seen better days.

field-composite

Next in the series: San Diego Unified had at least six Fieldturf fields fall apart before the warranty was up, and two were replaced with the same defective product. Still, district officials have such confidence in the company, no other turf manufacturer has been allowed to compete for jobs within the district.

    This article relates to: Education, Must Reads, News, School Finances

    Written by Ashly McGlone

    Ashly is an investigative reporter for Voice of San Diego. She can be reached at ashly.mcglone@voiceofsandiego.org or 619.550.5669.

    8 comments
    Fred Williams
    Fred Williams subscriber

    Sports have corrupted public schools.  Time to get the jocks out of positions of authority, and return education to its primary purpose, which is to cultivate minds, not destroy them. This field of schemes is just the tip of the iceberg. In fifty years, everyone will be ashamed at how we used to squander taxpayer funds on stupid games.

    Barry Vague
    Barry Vague

    There is no room bribes and kickbacks as alleged in the article.

    Bribery is defined by Black's Law Dictionary as the offering, giving, receiving, or soliciting of any item of value to influence the actions of an official or other person in charge of a public or legal duty. 

    What happened when the VOSD investigative reporter Ashly McGlone notified the FBI of the attempted bribe?

    richard brick
    richard brick subscribermember

    "coaches are often the highest paid faculty" If your writing about high schools that is not a true statement. High school head coaches are paid a stipend along with their teachers salary which is based on a pay scale. The pay scale for public schools teachers is based on step and class. Step is number of years worked, class is number of credits above the teachers BA or BS degree. A masters degree is paid more then a BA or BS degree, etc. 


    Most all high school head coaches teach at the high school they coach at. Principals and vice principals are paid more then then the head coach makes, stipend included. By the way if you break the stipend down to an hourly figure it comes out to be about a dime an hour.


    I will assume that you are writing about college coaches, some who make millions of dollars, but this article is mostly about high schools. These field are not only used by football teams, but soccer, boys and girls, field hockey, lacrosse, baseball, softball, so on.


    " Hapless jocks who traded an education for sports are then dumped" Would that include jocks who get full scholarships to prestigious university's? I'm sure all the parents out there who have their sons an daughters on scholarship are glad to know their kids are hapless.


    I always though playing a sport was a voluntary activity, not required to graduate?  " Keep the rest of our kids out of it"? Out of what? Please have some back ground knowledge before you write.

    Fred Williams
    Fred Williams subscriber

    @richard brick Football coaches are hired to coach football. The fig leaf of teaching other classes is just cover up, and it's commonplace that those "teacher" coaches are ineffective instructors. When the coach doesn't win enough, he's fired. Pretty clear to everyone involved that their job isn't education, it's winning games.


    The entire student body is required to attend pep rallies, during school hours. Then the students and parents are berated to attend games, buy tickets, donate money, cheer for "their" team, ad nauseum. 

    What do the local papers report on? How well students learn? Rarely! Instead the overwhelming majority of "education" related school coverage (with the honorable and rare exception of VOSD) is about playing games.


    What percentage of space on campus is given over to these games compared to classrooms? How much of the school's budget is squandered on sports instead of supporting education?


    The jocks who are awarded scholarships rarely get an education at those prestigious universities. Too many of them graduate functionally illiterate...and they only attend if they aren't injured, therefore losing that so-called scholarship. At SDSU, just as across the country at NCU, it's well known that the jocks don't attend difficult classes. Instead, they are shuffled into sham courses to keep their eligibility. It is rare for an athlete to get the same quality of education as their non-athlete peers.


    The rest of the world sees how sports dominate education in America, and shakes its head. Nobody else does this. They have sports clubs for those who want to play, but schools are for education.


    If there were something on the nation's campuses that caused our teens dozens of deaths, thousands of lifelong injuries, including permanent brain damage, and squandered millions of education dollars, we would declare war on the people behind it. Yet football (and modern cheer leading can be even more dangerous) is given a privileged place in our schools.


    Time to stand up to the bullies, and put an end to this waste. 


    Schools should be for education, not sports training.


    If someone wants to play games, they should do so outside of school.

    richard brick
    richard brick subscribermember

    @Voice SD @richard brick


    Excuse my ignorance put what is ROI?  I don't deal with obscure initials, why don't you just write what you mean?


    Hey Fred where are your numbers to back up your outrageous claim that head football coaches are "ineffective instructors"?Where are your numbers to back up your claim that there is a shortage of classroom space because athletic fields take up too much room?


    Local newspapers don't report on how well students learn? So the UT doesn't report on test scores, achievement gap between white students and minorities? Test scores by schools?    


    Where are the numbers that back up your claim that "jocks" take sham courses and are "functionally illiterate"? Easy to make these claims now back them up with facts. When I went to college I was allowed to pick my major and my classes. That has all changed? Now the coaches of the different sports teams choose the classes for their players?


    So in the rest of the world we are the only country that has athletic programs in our high schools and colleges? That is your claim, correct? Any numbers or facts to back that up?


    If you really want to talk about wasted money and money not put toward education lets talk about the Military Industrial Complex. Money spent by public education for athletics is infinitesimal compared to the tax dollars spent on war.


    "Stand up to bullies"? Who is getting bullied? Are you accusing me of bulling you, because I have a different opinion? Kids are being bullied to play sports? Last time I checked students need parent permission to participate in extracurricular activities, and the student must maintain a certain GPA.That goes from chess club,to theater to football. 


    Where are the facts about how much educational money was lost to Charter Schools due to financial fraud? Wasn't a big wig charter school administrator convicted of financial crimes for charters he set up through Mt. Empire school district?


    According to you and VOSD athletics are a complete waste of money and time. There is nothing to be gained for the student and athletics should be eliminated from public education. Do I have all this correct?


    VOSD this is the first time I can remember that your editorial staff has stepped into a reader discussion and taken sides. Be sure to look for my large donation to your cause,err, NOT

    Fred Williams
    Fred Williams subscriber

    @richard brick @Voice SD You really don't know what ROI is? Wow. You must have traded an education for playing games.

    Have you ever heard of Google? Search on the key words of your long list of questions before you type a comment, you'll save yourself from embarrassment.


    I'm able to provide the education that you might have missed, but please take a few minutes to do some research first.

    Fred Williams
    Fred Williams subscriber

    Beyond this outrageous rip off, it's time for San Diego and the nation to address the elephant in the room.


    Why are schools the conduit for creating professional athletes?


    Education and football especially do not mix.  Football causes brain injuries.  Football distracts from learning, wastes financial resources (coaches are often the highest paid faculty), and produces false promises.  Only one in fourteen thousand players ever have the opportunity to be professional.  And even the pros have careers that often span no more than a handful of seasons, ending with permanent injuries.


    Hapless jocks, who traded an education for sports, are then dumped.  With few real skills, they frequently end up in dire circumstances.  Our modern economy has very little need for people who are good at football.  We need smarts to succeed, rather than concussed ex-jocks.


    Don't claim that football (and the other team sports) teach youngsters team work, respect, work ethic, and so on.  Any other team activity, from debate to theater, is far more effective...and doesn't paralyze kids for life.


    Nor is it an excuse to say it's what the boosters and fans want.  So what?  They can have as much violent entertainment as they like...but they should pay for it themselves and keep the rest of our kids out of it.


    After San Diego's heroic vote telling the Spanos clan to pay for their own entertainment business, let's take the next step.  Complete separation of sport and state.  Schooling is too important to be sacrificed for the sake of a game.