GHSA investigates eligibility of Valdosta quarterback’s transfer

Credit: Daniel Varnado

Credit: Daniel Varnado

The Georgia High School Association is investigating the eligibility of Valdosta quarterback Jake Garcia, who transferred from a California high school last month and started the Wildcats' opening victory Sept. 4 over Warner Robins.

Garcia committed to USC and made the cross-country move with his father in early August after his home state postponed football into the winter because of COVID-19. Garcia plans to enroll at USC in January.

Garcia’s parents dissolved their marriage to meet the GHSA’s eligibility rules, according to ESPN’s Mark Schlabach. Garcia’s father, Randy, told Schlabach that he and his wife, Yvonne, planned to reunite after their son’s senior season. Randy Garcia is retired, which allowed him to move, while Yvonne Garcia still lives and works in California, according to Schlabach’s story.

GHSA bylaws require that transfer students move “simultaneously with the entire parental unit” into their new school zones to be eligible immediately. The GHSA acknowledged an ongoing investigation but would not comment on it, per office policy.

Garcia passed for 332 yards in his debut but sat out Valdosta’s second game against Bainbridge last week.

Valdosta coach Rush Propst declined to comment on the GHSA investigation Wednesday, but said the decision to sit Garcia was because of a lower-leg injury, not his eligibility. Propst said Garcia’s availability for Friday night’s game at Colquitt County likely would be a game-time decision and would be based strictly on the player’s health.

Teams who use a player who is later declared ineligible risk forfeiting games in which the player participates.

The GHSA has denied eligibility to two other major Division I recruits this season. Quarterback Carlos Del Rio was ruled ineligible at Grayson while linebacker Chief Borders was deemed ineligible at Carrollton. Both are committed to Florida. Neither played in a game for their new schools. Borders is now at Heard County, where he is eligible and played last week.

Valdosta (2-0) is ranked No. 1 in Class 6A. The Wildcats' game at Colquitt marks the return of Propst to the program where he won two state titles before the school forced him out after the 2018 season. Propst downplayed that angle.

“I just try to focus on the game and try not to worry about the things I can’t control,” Propst said. “Is it a special game? I’m not going to deny that. I’d be lying. I’ve got a lot of good memories over there, but when all is said and done, it’s not about Rush Propst, but about the Wildcats and Packers.”

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