Georgia's Valdosta HS players ineligible, wins forfeited

The Georgia High School Association has 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.

GHSA executive director Dr. Robin Hines confirmed the sanctions to ESPN on Tuesday morning. Valdosta High School is expected to appeal the sanctions.

The GHSA investigation was the result of comments made by Valdosta High coach Rush 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.

Propst was placed on administrative leave last month. He couldn't immediately be reached for comment. The Valdosta Board of Education is scheduled to meet Tuesday.

During the secret recording, Propst accused the University of Alabama and University of Georgia of paying high school prospects hundreds of thousands of dollars to play for them. Sources told ESPN that Propst has provided Alabama and Georgia officials with affidavits in which he denied having personal knowledge of recruiting violations committed by either program.

According to sources, Nelson had separate conference calls last week with officials from Alabama and Georgia and NCAA enforcement investigators.

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 and enrolled at the university in January.

In an earlier sworn deposition as part of a lawsuit filed by former Valdosta High 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.

After leaving Hoover, Propst won two more state championships in 11 seasons at Colquitt County High. In March 2019, he was fired after a school board investigation alleged he committed ethics violations. In an interview with ESPN in September, Propst denied the allegations.

The Georgia Professional Standards Commission, which establishes and certifies teaching certificates in the state, has also opened an investigation, sources told ESPN. The commission investigated Propst in 2019 while he was coaching at Colquitt County High and reinstated his certificate in March 2020.