By David Purdum / For the AJC
Dr. Steven Craft had been the Fulton County Athletics Director barely two months when he received information accusing Milton High School’s state champion boys basketball program of recruiting violations.
Craft didn’t hesitate to act and launched an investigation that would lead to the resignation of Milton coach David Boyd. Boyd led the Eagles to state titles in two of the last three seasons and has won six state titles overall in Georgia.
Boyd’s success didn’t matter to Craft.
“Honestly, it wasn’t a tough decision, because it was the right thing to do,” Craft said during a recent interview at the Fulton County Schools offices. “I think it’s important to realize that it was never even a question of what school it is. If it’s a legitimate allegation, then we need to look into it. It very well could have been 15 different high schools; it just so happened it was Milton.
“It was what was right for the kids and the coaches of Fulton County,” he added. “We did what was right for high school athletics across the board.”
An ambitious, stocky 35-year-old with a shaved head, Craft was named the first Fulton County A.D. on July 2. Before him, county athletic duties fell under the responsibilities of an area superintendent. He’s the first full-time county A.D. and has made an immediate impression.
Craft spent the last four years as athletic director and eventually assistant principal at Pope High School. He’s also made career stops coaching at Lassiter, South Gwinnett and Tucker. He’s been around and knows what can go on if a coach becomes overzealous in trying to attract players to their program.
With that in mind, one of the first things Craft did after taking over the job was to hold a meeting for athletic directors from across the county.
“I told them to tell their coaches that we will coach the kids that are in our buildings,” recalled Craft. “We’re not going to use undue influence. We’re not going to recruit. We’re going to coach the kids that we’re supposed to.”
Soon after the meeting, Craft received the allegations of undue influence against Boyd. Craft launched an investigation, and Boyd resigned Aug. 10. Boyd has since refuted the allegations.
The news sent a message throughout the county and drew a mixed reaction.
“There are people who, for lack of a better word, are excited that people are willing to do the right things,” Craft said. “I think you also have the group of people that say it’s happening everywhere why bother doing this.”
Craft knows coaches are often put in a tricky spot when parents contact them about their programs. That’s why he wants to hold regular meetings with athletic directors and coaches to provide the support needed to monitor situations.
“As a former athletic director, principal and coach, I know you will be contacted,” said Craft, who holds a Ph.D in Educational Leadership from the University of Southern Mississippi. “I tell coaches that they have every right to sell your school, tell them that you have a great academic program or athletic program, but then you need to direct them to the counseling department. Your job is not to follow up.”