Leanne Propst, a cheerleader at Hoover (Ala.) High School, wanted to cheer for her daddy. So she moved out of state, 265 miles to Moultrie and tried out for the Colquitt County cheerleading team.
She didn’t make the squad.
“You want to talk about tough?” said disappointed dad and Colquitt head football coach Rush Propst. “That’s tough. I went through the same thing a parent would. I got mad. I was upset, mad at the world.”
After an illustrious and controversial nine-year run at Hoover, Propst is entering his fifth season at Colquitt. He recalled the talk he had with his dejected daughter in a recent phone interview and compared it to discussions he has had with players who lost their starting spot.
Those talks can be especially challenging, when they involve a local kid who has been in the system his whole life, only to lose his position to a player who transfers in.
Two of Propst’s starters on last season’s state semifinal team were transfers from Alabama. They were kids who had run out of eligibility in Alabama due to their age, but were eligible to play their senior years in Georgia. He’s had four players from Alabama come over because of age issues during his tenure at Colquitt.
To be eligible in Georgia, a student-athlete must not turn 19 prior to May 1, before the school year. In Alabama, however, a student-athlete is ineligible if he/she turns 19 prior to Aug. 1.
The GHSA approved the Colquitt transfers, but there were still grumblings across ultra-competitive Region 1-AAAAAA.
–David Purdum, email@example.com
By Rush Propst
It started with a phone call from an Alabama high school head coach.
The coach said, “We have a kid who’s not going to be able to play in our state because he’s too old. We’re going to tell the parents to move to Georgia so he can play.”
It was nothing more than that. We didn’t recruit the kids. I didn’t know them. I wouldn’t have known they existed, unless the high school coach in Alabama had called me.
And these weren’t five-star, blue chippers. They were two-star kids, who wouldn’t have received a scholarship if they hadn’t been allowed to play their senior years. Each of them went on to college with assistance.
Our protocol in that situation is to tell the parents they’ve got to make a legitimate, bona fide move. They’ve got to come over here, meet with the school administration and know the protocol required to transfer in and play immediately. And that’s what they did.
Colquitt County is not the only school they called, either. And this has been happening for years and years and years among border states.
People get bent out of shape about transfers, but if I’m a parent and my son is not going to be able to play his senior year, and I have the ability to move to a near-by state where he does have the ability to play, I’m going to move my son.
These parents are only doing what they think is best for their child. The Alabama coach was only doing what he thought was the best interest of the kid.
The other side, of course, is the player who loses his spot to a transfer student. It’s tough, but that’s part of life. If we’re in the business world and somebody can do our job better, they are going to take our spot. This is a game of playing the best players, regardless of who their moms and dads are.
I’m the head football coach, and my daughter and step-daughter didn’t make the cheerleading team. Life does not bring fairness to you because of who your parents are.
A town wants their football team to be good, and they want the best players on the field. Now, if you talk from the parents’ perspective, they want their son and the next 21 best players on the field. It’s been that way now for the 32 years I’ve been in coaching.
We’re all going to fight for our child, but that does not give them the right to play, whether they’ve been in the program from the beginning or move in from out of state.
–As told to David Purdum