Valdosta to reconsider Rush Propst firing

Rush Propst was hired by Valdosta ahead of the 2020 Georgia high school football season.  (Jason Getz/For the AJC)
Rush Propst was hired by Valdosta ahead of the 2020 Georgia high school football season. (Jason Getz/For the AJC)

Credit: Jason Getz

Credit: Jason Getz

Rush Propst apparently isn’t done as Valdosta’s football coach.

The Valdosta City Schools confirmed Wednesday morning that it will meet Monday in a special meeting to revisit Propst’s contract non-renewal.

Warren Lee, a school board member who stood by Propst in the 5-3 vote to fire the coach April 27, made a motion at Tuesday night’s board meeting that a called meeting take place to reconsider that decision.

The called meeting is scheduled for Monday, according to an announcement posted Wednesday morning on Valdosta’s school board website. On the agenda, it reads: “Revisit non-renewal of head football coach at VHS – Mr. Warren Lee – action required.”

The movement to reinstate Propst comes despite Valdosta’s failure last week before the GHSA’s board of trustees to overturn GHSA penalties that resulted from allegations that Propst illegally enticed five players to transfer to Valdosta.

Most damaging was a secret audio, recorded by Valdosta’s former booster-club director, on which Propst discusses using booster-club money to pay rent or utilities for potential transfer athletes.

The GHSA fined Valdosta $7,500, declared five players ineligible, forced Valdosta to forfeit seven 2020 football victories and banned the team from the 2021 playoffs.

In the school board’s vote of non-renewal, Lee was joined by Tyra Howard and Kelisa Brown in support of retaining Propst. Two others, Debra Bell and Liz Shumpard, had joined those three in making a controversial 2019 coaching change, firing Alan Rodemaker. It was speculated that the five might stay together and back Propst last month, but Bell and Shumpard voted for non-renewal.

If Lee and others have been persuasive in the two weeks since Propst was ousted, the former coach stands a chance of getting his job back.

Rush Propst won two state titles as Colquitt County football coach.
Rush Propst won two state titles as Colquitt County football coach.

Credit: Jason Getz

Credit: Jason Getz

Propst is still under investigation for these allegations by the Georgia Professional Standards Commission, which can pull teaching certificates. Propst couldn’t coach in Georgia in 2019 while his certificate was suspended following his firing at Colquitt County. Propst regained his certificate on appeal in 2020 and called it vindication, saying his Colquitt County ouster was unjust.

Propst has not commented publicly since allegations were made known to the GHSA in February except to say that he respected the appeals process. However, he did submit a statement to Valdosta to be used in its appeals case. In it, he denied providing money or overseeing any financial transactions.

“I have no personal knowledge of anyone providing rent, cash, or any other benefits to any student-athlete or prospective student-athlete associated with the Valdosta High School football program,” Propst wrote.

Part of Valdosta’s appeals case was that no evidence proved that Propst or the booster club carried out any wrongdoing or that any families received financial assistance.

“The context of the recording is extremely concerning,” Valdosta superintendent Todd Cason wrote the GHSA in March, “but again, no physical evidence has been found to substantiate the conversation between Rush Propst and (former booster club director) Mike ‘Nub’ Nelson as being accurate.”

Any enticement or persuasion to influence a student to transfer violates GHSA bylaws. It does not require financial assistance.

Propst, 63, has won seven state titles, two in Georgia while at Colquitt County. His coaching record is 295-108. He passed 300 career victories last season, but the GHSA-levied forfeits reduced that number.

Valdosta’s football team is conducting spring practice this week under acting head coach Shelton Felton.

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