Updated: Valdosta could hire football coach Thursday, faces lawsuit over firing


The most controversial coaching change of the Georgia football off-season is entering a new phase.

Valdosta could make a hire as early as Thursday. Meanwhile, the wife of fired Valdosta football Alan Rodemaker has filed suit against five school board members who voted not to renew Rodemaker’s contract, according to multiple media outlets.

The board of education is meeting Thursday at 7 p.m. The agenda includes ''head football coach vacancy discussion.'' The superintendent is expected to make a recommendation of one or more candidates, and the board must vote, although none is guaranteed approval.

Potential candidates for recommendation are thought to include Valdosta offensive coordinator Josh Crawford,  former Colquitt County coach Rush Propst and perhaps even Hal Mumme, the former Valdosta State head coach, according to sources.

The public can’t attend the meeting because of the city’s shelter-in-place order, but the meeting will be live-streamed.

The school board also faces a lawsuit that calls for the board to rehire Rodemaker on July 1, the end of his current contract, unless the school board can demonstrate a ''meaningful, non-racial reason'' for his dismissal, according to the Valdosta Daily Times.

The lawsuit states: ''Upon information and belief, the goal of the African-American majority of the Board in nonrenewing Coach Rodemaker was simply to replace a white coach with an African-American coach,'' according to Winnersvillenation.com.

School board officials have not given reasons for the dismissal, citing policy over personnel matters. The lawsuit, filed by Leah Rodemaker, also requests a trial by jury.

The board voted 5-4 not to renew Alan Rodemaker’s contract in February and again in March after Rodemaker’s lawyers persuaded the board to meet again in a larger auditorium that allowed for the community to comment on Rodemaker’s job performance.

Despite a show of support for the coach, the vote was 5-4 each time with Warren Lee, Liz Shumphard, Tyra Howard, Debra Bell and Kelisa Brown voting against renewal. The five are African-American. Four school board members who voted to retain Rodemaker are white. Superintendent Dr. William Todd Cason and principal Dr. Janice Richardson, who are African-American, publicly support keeping Rodemaker.

Radio stations around Valdosta have reported white and black candidates who have been contacted or interviewed. Those include Propst, Dean Fabrizio and Tom Knotts, who are white, and Crawford, Maurice Freeman and Kareem Reid, who are black.

The school board has not confirmed any interviews or candidates.

Rodemaker’s record as coach at Valdosta is 36-17 in four seasons. In his first season, 2016, he led Valdosta to its first state title since 1998. The team was 10-3 in 2019. Rodemaker joined the staff as an assistant in 2010.