Milton boys basketball coach David Boyd on Monday became the fifth head coach since February to resign or be fired amid allegations of illegal recruiting. Georgia has never seen so many allegations result in coaching changes in this short of a time.
Why? In March, the AJC shed a critical light on the impact of transfers on the high school landscape on its Sports Extra page in the Sunday sports section. The coverage was much discussed on the following day at a GHSA executive committee meeting. And then last month, the AJC, through an open records request, reported that the GHSA is dealing with more than 6,000 transfers a year who seek eligibility to play sports at their new schools. Some of the larger schools in metro Atlanta had more than 40 athletic transfers.
The Boyd resignation is dramatic because of his status as a six-time state champion at four Georgia high schools, including 2010 and 2012 Class AAAAA champion Milton.
It also leaves open to debate about whether this will stop, or even slow, the transfer process. Here are answers to some questions worth considering:
1. So why, after all these years of kids transferring all over the state, are we seeing all these firings now?
A number of things. What happened in Troup County – where a popular and successful coach in Charlie Flowers was let go in February over recruiting allegations – emboldened coaches and parents to complain and schools to act. Then at Shiloh, a player innocently makes a statement in a newspaper article that he was asked to come play at a new school by his former coach. The player and the coach later denied it, but Shiloh had no choice but to act. So now, there’s a precedent, and the domino effect comes into play. Parents and fans and rival coaches have complained enough now that principals and superintendents are starting to make this a priority. Not saying that school administrators looked the other way in the past, but allegations of recruiting are difficult to prove, and educators are more interested in academics and budget than sports. But the concern about recruiting has begun to boil over. Administrators are being pressed, and they are responding.
2. Will this stop the process?
Once coaches begin losing jobs over recruiting allegations, other coaches will take note. There is not a coach in the state that won’t soon know about the events at Milton and four other high schools this year. It will make them think about what they’re doing and whether it’s legal, whether it could get them fired.
3. Why is it important to try to stop the process?
Recruiting is cheating. It’s against GHSA’s bylaws. There’s nothing wrong with a student-athlete transferring from one school to another, but coaches have no business trying to persuade students to make those choices for athletic purposes. Their job is to coach what is in the building. This is not college sports. Recruiting, which is illegal for coaches or anyone else who is even indirectly related to the school, undermines the integrity of the competition.
4. Does this indicate that high school administrators, much like college presidents, are trying to take control of the sports?
It’s an indication that administrators are trying to take control of athletic programs in their own school districts. Notice that all of the coaches who are out of jobs this year over recruiting allegations come from school systems with multiple high schools. These schools know each others’ business, especially in north Fulton County, where schools are opening quickly, and their faculties are being hired largely from one another. School administrators are being forced to handle these accusations and feuds that occur between schools in their own districts. Fulton County is about to hire a county-wide athletics director, and I’ve got to believe that these inter-school feuds and accusations are reasons for that.
5. Are there other coaches out there who should be concerned?
If you’re a coach with a history of getting high-profile transfers, then be worried. That doesn’t mean those coaches are recruiting. If you build a successful program nowadays, parents will bring their kids to be a part of it. But if you coach at a school known for getting a lot of student-athlete transfers, then the spotlight is going to be on you and your program.
6. The GHSA says it cannot be an investigative arm. But for this to work, don’t they have to investigate?
The GHSA investigates, but it puts the burden of proof on the accuser, or the school system that is investigating the allegations. The GHSA has only about 10 employees, and none of those is an investigator. The reason the GHSA doesn’t have a full-time investigator is because member schools have not pressed the GHSA hard enough to get one, and because the GHSA doesn’t get many official complaints of recruiting. There were only about a half-dozen last academic year. It’s not been a priority to school superintendents in the state. Perhaps this is beginning to change.
7. Was David Boyd the big fish in this pond and are there others?
The boys basketball program at Milton has been the most controversial athletic program in the state in regard to the issue of transfers. It was the program most commonly accused of recruiting. Three of its five starters last season were high-profile transfers who were major D-1 recruits. That doesn’t mean they were there illegally. All we know is that Fulton County Schools believes the allegations have enough merit to report them to the GHSA. Are there programs that have recruited illegally in Georgia? Yes. Most every coach I’ve asked about this says that his or her school does not recruit, but others do. Everyone knows those programs that get transfers, but it’s not fair to point them out because it’s recruiting that is illegal, not transfers.