Amid recruiting scandal, Georgia prep coach out

  • Senior college football writer
  • Author of seven books on college football
  • Graduate of the University of Georgia

The Valdosta Board of Education in Georgia voted on Tuesday not to renew the contract of embattled football coach Rush Propst, who was placed on administrative leave after allegations surfaced that he recruited players and their families and then solicited money to pay their living expenses.

The board of education’s decision not to renew Propst’s contract was made by a 5-3 vote.

On April 13, the Georgia High School Association levied a $7,500 fine against Valdosta High School, ordered the Wildcats to forfeit seven victories from the 2020 football season, banned the team from playing in the postseason in 2021 and declared a handful of players ineligible for next season after an investigation into whether the team used ineligible players.

The GHSA investigation was the result of comments made by Propst on a secretly recorded conversation he had with former booster club executive director Michael “Nub” Nelson in May, in which Propst indicated he needed “funny money” to help pay for living expenses for players’ families who wanted to move there.

The GHSA had already required Valdosta High to forfeit one of its victories from the 2020 season after it declared star quarterback Jake Garcia ineligible. He moved to Valdosta last summer, after California pushed back the start of its football season because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Garcia played only one game for the Wildcats before the GHSA ruled him ineligible because he and his family hadn’t made a bona fide move. In an earlier ESPN story, Randy Garcia, Jake’s father, said that he and his wife, Yvonne, legally separated to meet the GHSA’s transfer requirements.

After leaving Valdosta, Garcia transferred to Grayson High School in suburban Atlanta, where he helped lead the Rams to a Class AAAAAAA state championship. Garcia, the No. 18 player in the ESPN 300, signed with Miami (Fla.) and enrolled at the university in January.

In an earlier sworn deposition as part of a lawsuit filed by former Valdosta High football coach Alan Rodemaker, Nelson accused Propst of wanting $2,500 per month to pay for rent and other expenses after Garcia and his father moved from California to Valdosta.

Nelson also said during the deposition that Propst was seeking $850 per month to pay expenses for quarterback Amari Jones, who relocated to Valdosta from the Atlanta area. A handful of Wildcats players, including wide receiver Tajh Sanders, the No. 219 prospect in the 2022 ESPN 300, followed Propst to Valdosta from Colquitt County High in Moultrie, Georgia.

Propst, 63, has been one of the most successful and controversial high school coaches in the country. After winning five state championships at Hoover High in Alabama, Propst announced his resignation in October 2007, effective at the end of the season, after an investigation alleged improprieties in his program and concluded that he had quietly supported a second family in another town.

Propst, who was married with children at the time, eventually divorced his wife and married the woman with whom he shared his secret life.

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