VALDOSTA — As the investigation into possible rules violations and improprieties by the Valdosta Wildcats high school football program continues, the Georgia High School Association has handed down sanctions against the team.
Fines totaling $7,500 have been issued, along with the forfeit of seven wins from the 2020 season, a postseason ban for the upcoming 2021 season, and five players ruled ineligible for the 2021 season as well — some of whom have already left the school.
The decision comes after the release of an audio tape recorded in May by then-Wildcats booster club executive director Michael “Nub” Nelson. In the recording, a voice, alleged to be Valdosta head football coach Rush Propst, is heard discussing a variety of topics, including the need for cash to pay for housing for athletes from outside of the area so they could play for the Wildcats as well as the desire to have cash on hand in an office — “funny money,” as it was described in the conversation — for any expense that would come up.
The voice also discusses how college programs in the Southeastern Conference allegedly keep athletes on their teams with cash.
A 64-page deposition of Nelson in the current lawsuit against the City of Valdosta Board of Education involving former Valdosta head coach Alan Rodemaker, whose contract was not renewed before head coach Propst was brought in, and other evidence also factored in the GHSA’s decision.
The GHSA itself is not commenting publicly until the appeals process has played out in full on the matter.
Phil Jones of ITG-Next Georgia broke the news on his afternoon sports show “Extra Point!” Monday afternoon.
“Some folks thought the penalty was more severe than they expected,” Jones said. “At this point, everyone in Valdosta is almost numb to what’s going on. There’s not a whole lot more that could surprise people. At the same time, it’s like you know it’s coming and you’re never fully prepared for what you’re going to hear.”
Valdosta Wildcat football is one of the most widely recognized programs in the United States, with 24 state titles and six national championships. The school holds the current record nationally with 939 wins since the program began with a 3-win season in 1913. The hiring of Propst in winter 2020 was thought and hoped to return the program to its glory days — the team has won just one state title since 1998.
“There are those who support Rush and have from Day 1,” Jones said. “And there are those who haven’t and are like, ‘This is what we told you was going to happen.’ You have people who are willing to let the process play out and there seem to be just as many who aren’t that way. Some are willing to give Propst a chance and some are saying Valdosta fans got what they deserved.”
Propst was placed on administrative leave March 9 pending the outcome of an internal probe. The Georgia Professional Standards Commission has received a formal complaint from Valdosta City Schools about the coach as well.
Valdosta High School has already started the legal process in appealing the letter from the GHSA. GPB reached out to Valdosta City Schools Superintendent Todd Cason for comment but has yet to hear back.
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT: Two Georgia teenagers dead from apparent gunshot wounds
Photo: Valdosta Head Football Coach Rush Propst on the sidelines of the State Championship Semi Finals at Buford High School on December 18, 2020. Propst was placed on administrative leave March 9 pending the outcome of an internal probe. Credit: GPB Sports
This story comes to The Georgia Sun through a reporting partnership with GA Today, a non-profit newsroom focused on reporting in Georgia.