Updated: Valdosta hires controversial Rush Propst as coach


Valdosta is the most winning high school football program in the country.

Rush Propst has been called the country’s most famous high school football coach.

Now, the two are joining forces.

Valdosta’s school board voted 5-4 Tuesday evening to hire Propst, who most recently was head coach at Colquitt County, where he compiled a record of 119-35 over 11 seasons. Propst’s teams at Colquitt won state titles in the highest classification with undefeated teams in 2014 and 2015.

The same five board members who voted in January to fire the previous coach, Alan Rodemaker, supported Propst.

‘’It’s just an honor,’’ Propst said Tuesday evening. “I don’t think there’s a coach in football that hears the word Valdosta and doesn’t think of good football teams. Valdosta is synonymous with winning.’’

Propst revealed that he applied for the Valdosta job 14 years ago but was passed over for Rick Tomberlin. Propst has been a head coach at six schools, all that struggled before he turned them around. Valdosta will be a different challenge, he said.

‘’This will be the first time I’ve gone into a job where they’re winning now,’’ Propst said. “Is it the level they want? Maybe not, but they’re only four years from a state championship, and they were in the quarterfinals last year. They expect state championships, and that’s OK. I’m fine with that.’’

An Alabama native, Propst came to Georgia in 2008 from Hoover High outside of Birmingham, where he won five state titles and become nationally known, in part because of the reality MTV series “Two-A-Days.” His career record is 295-96.

Colquitt County fired Propst in spring 2019 after an investigation led by Colquitt County's superintendent alleged that Propst had lost control of the team, interfered with the hiring of a principal, administered medication to athletes and owed more than $400,000 in income taxes.

Propst was a volunteer assistant coach at Alabama-Birmingham last fall. In March, Propst regained his teaching certificate from the Georgia Professional Standards Commission and claimed vindication from the Colquitt County allegations, which he mostly denied.

While that was the most controversial Georgia football firing of 2019, Valdosta’s dismissal of state title-winning coach Rodemaker had been the story of the current offseason, at least until the COVID-19 pandemic canceled spring practices across the state.

In January, the Valdosta school board voted 5-4 to fire Rodemaker despite the team’s 10-3 finish in 2019 and a 36-17 overall record in four seasons. In 2016, Rodemaker’s first as head coach, Valdosta won its first state title in 18 years.

Rodemaker’s wife later filed a lawsuit on his behalf, claiming the vote was racially motivated. The five board members who voted against Rodemaker are African-American. Rodemaker is white.

Those five voted Tuesday to hire Propst, who is white.

Propst’s hire means that the coach will return to Colquitt County on Sept. 11, when Valdosta will play the Packers in a non-region game.

‘’You know, that’s going to be different now,’’ Propst said. “It’s going to be like [Colquitt] going to Hoover in 2014. You spend 11 years of your life in a place, it’s an emotional deal. But I’ll do a good job of watering down that and taking that out of it. We’ll get our kids focused like any other away game.’’

Colquitt County defeated Valdosta the last six times they played with Propst as Colquitt’s coach, the last five by 21 points or more. In 2019, Valdosta broke the losing streak with a 50-49 victory in Rodemaker’s final season. Coincidentally, that was the only high school game that Propst watched in person last year.

Colquitt County, with a larger enrollment, plays in the highest class. Valdosta plays in the second highest.

Valdosta was slated to vote on Propst’s hiring April 2, but tabled public discussion as contract details needed ironing out, though the board never acknowledged publicly that Propst was a candidate until Tuesday night.

Valdosta’s 932 victories dating more than 100 years are the most in history nationwide. The South Georgia school has won 24 state titles.