It leaves Jones, Tahj Sanders, Jamad Willis and Ty’li Lewis ineligible. Tim Sanders, father of Tahj, said their family may end up moving to Florida so his son can play this fall.
“My heart goes out to these young men,” Cason said. “We have 61 young men who are participating in spring practice and to have to share with them that they can have a season but not play in the postseason is disappointing. For the four young men, it’s very unfortunate because their parents continue to say they were not involved in any recruitment. We have to move forward.”
The school went before the four-member board of appeals April 19 and had that first appeal unanimously turned down. Valdosta chose not to appeal later that day at the GSHA’s executive committee meeting, opting instead for one final plea before the board of trustees.
Since then the school has fired head football coach Rush Propst, who was accused of recruiting players and paying for their housing and utilities with a “funny money” account. Propst was terminated by a 5-3 vote by the Valdosta school board. Shelton Felton has been named interim coach and is conducting spring practice.
The school tired to distance itself from Propst throughout the hearings and attempted to foist the blame in his direction. But the tape-recorded meeting between the coach and then-Valdosta Touchdown Club president Mike “Nub” Nelson proved too much to overcome at the appeal, and the penalties stood. GHSA executive director Robin Hines based much of his decision on information obtained in those recordings.
“I felt very comfortable that the evidence the appeal, and this appeal showed there was no physical evidence,” Cason said. “All we have is the recording — and while the recording is damning, don’t get me wrong … I do understand the dynamics — there was no physical evidence that these young men were recruited.”