The Marana man twice accused of stealing money from youth football organizations has also been operating a second, for-profit football club and charging hundreds of dollars a month for kids to participate, according to documents obtained by the Star.
Steve Marshall also is under investigation related to his involvement with the Marana Broncos, an association affiliated with the Tucson Youth Football and Spirit Federation. He is a former president of the association, which is not related to the team that sued him 13 years ago.
The investigation will wrap up soon, said Lt. Chris Olson, an Oro Valley Police Department spokesman. Marshall has not been charged with a crime.
Marshall quit the Broncos a month before police began their investigation, but social media posts and emails obtained by the Star show he is still deeply involved in youth sports.
Marshall has been running Team 520, a 7-on-7 “football factory” that competes in tournaments throughout the West. And until recently, he was affiliated with Canyon del Oro High School’s football team. School district officials told the Star on Thursday that Marshall would not be offered a coaching spot for the upcoming school year. He had been coaching at CDO since August 2015.
The Star attempted to contact Marshall by phone, at two different email addresses and via Facebook and LinkedIn. He did not respond to any of the Star’s requests for comment.
A promise of life skills on grass, in class
According to its Facebook page, Marshall’s for-profit club — Team 520 — is a 7-on-7 football league that teaches “life skills for both on the grass and in the class” to players from sixth grade through high school.
Seven-on-seven, also known as passing league football, is a bare-bones version of the sport designed to train players for the 11-on-11 game. Teams are made up of a quarterback and receivers who face seven defenders; there are no linemen, and running plays are forbidden.
Team 520 is made up of 40-plus players ranging in ages from 11 to 17, according to a fundraising letter Marshall asked parents to distribute to local business owners. The letter said that the team will travel to 10 tournaments per season, with an average cost of $1,500 per player per season.
“TEAM 520 also prides itself as being an organization that believes in academics that are enhanced through athletics,” a flyer said. “Players with 520 are taught skills to help them in the class room to prepare them for both High School and college opportunities.”
In January, Marshall requested that each player’s family pay $300, with the money going toward uniforms and the team’s first tournament, scheduled for Feb. 3 in Phoenix. Flyers for that tournament, the Red Zone Elite event, show the total registration cost as $195 per team.
Marshall asked for additional money a month later, requesting $125 for high school players and $100 for middle school players. In the same email, he announced a new fundraiser — a March Madness bracket pool with a $10 entry fee.
Team 520 parents covered the costs, and more, for additional tournaments. Prior to April’s Proway West Coast Shoot Out in Long Beach, California, Marshall requested $300 from each player who would be traveling with the team, according to an email sent to parents. Marshall said the money would cover transportation, lodging, meals, tournament fees and entertainment. Parents taking their own child to the tournament were asked to pay $50 to cover registration.
The Proway tournament cost $300 for middle school teams and $600 for high school teams.
Parents could defray their costs by getting local businesses involved, Marshall said in emails. Marshall told Team 520 parents that if they found sponsors willing to pay $25 to get their name and logo on a T-shirt, all money raised would be deducted from their player’s fees.
A troubled history
Marshall and his ex-wife were the subjects of a 2005 lawsuit filed by the Oro Valley Dolphins, alleging the couple stole $10,000 during Marshall’s tenure as Dolphins president, the Star reported last month.
Lisa Cotner has denied any involvement in the theft. She said she learned about the lawsuit for the first time when she read about it in the Star. She said she and Steve Marshall were separated and living apart at the time the suit was filed.
Steve Marshall settled the case out of court.
Cotner said she became peripherally involved with the Dolphins after her then-husband assigned her as cheerleading coach and board member. In the lawsuit, Cotner is accused of writing checks to herself and depositing them into her personal account, which she said would not have been possible since two signatures were required on each check.
Cotner said she would have filed a legal response 13 years ago had she known about the lawsuit, but her then-husband never told her about it, she said.
“Steve is a great coach, he just shouldn’t be handling any money,” Cotner said.
No records found
Team 520 is not registered as a corporation or LLC, and is not listed on the IRS’ nonprofit list. While youth sports teams aren’t required to register as businesses with the state, most local leagues do. And because youth sports leagues qualify as nonprofit organizations, most also are established as such with the IRS.
It’s unclear whether players are offered the same protections that exist with more established programs. TYFSF provides medical insurance for all players and extensive training for coaches and volunteers. The Star could not determine whether Team 520 provides either.
Tucson Turf Elite, another local 7-on-7 program, is registered with the state and has nonprofit status with the IRS. Tucson Turf charges players $50 a month plus nominal tournament fees, which are determined based on how many players attend, said Toby Borguet, the team’s co-founder, coach and director of operations.
This is the first year Tucson Turf has charged monthly fees, which cover the cost of uniforms and renting practice fields.
Tucson Turf Elite is open to boys and girls ages 5 through 18, and is made up of flag and 7-on-7 teams. Players practice once a week and meet several times a month for skill sessions, meetings and workshops, including life lessons that can be learned through sports.
“We’re trying to do it different than everyone else out there, because we see a lot of great athletes but not a lot of great character,” Borguet said. “We really want to run a program that’s based on character and helping kids understand that the game is a game; it’s not life.”