High school football is always news in Alabama. But it is particularly big news today with the announcement that Rush Propst, head coach at powerhouse Hoover High School, will be stepping down when the Bucs are finished with the 2007 playoffs.
Propst led Hoover to spectacular success on the field, with five state championships and a No. 1 national ranking. And he made Hoover High a national brand, thanks to MTV's popular Two A Days program. But Propst stepped down in the wake of apparent academic, financial, and personal wrongdoing, leaving the Hoover community swirling in controversy.
Hoover and Propst are hardly alone among Alabama prep football programs struggling to stay within ethical boundaries:
* Powerful Oxford High School had to forfeit seven games and was fined $300 by the Alabama High School Athletic Association (AHSAA) for using ineligible players. Oxford also was placed on one year probation. Interestingly, Oxford coach Josh Niblett has been mentioned as a possible successor to Propst at Hoover.
* Bill Clark, head coach at Prattville High School, has agreed to amend his annual disclosure forms with the Alabama Ethics Commission. Prattville beat Hoover in last year's Class 6A championship game, and Clark's move came two weeks after Propst resubmitted a more complete 2002 income form and filed disclosure forms for the years 2003 through 2006. Clark described his primarily public-sector job as "consultant" to the city of Prattville on his 2005 form. Only on an inside page does he reveal that he also is coach and athletic director at Prattville High.
* Huffman High School in Birmingham forfeited four wins and was fined $500 for use of ineligible players. Also, the Huffman principal was placed on administrative leave, and the school was placed on one year probation.
Sure looks like folks in Alabama will go to serious extremes in efforts to win high-school football games. And that's a subject that has drawn your humble blogger's attention.
Our blog primarily is about justice-related issues, particularly the problem of judicial and prosecutorial corruption in courts--at both the state and federal level. But my long and unpleasant encounter with Alabama's "justice" system started, I believe, because some folks wanted to make sure their high-school football program would remain stout.
The program in question, the one at Briarwood Christian High School, has indeed remained stout--the Lions are undefeated and ranked No. 1 in Alabama's Class 5A. But what steps were taken to help the Briarwood team reach such heights? And whose rights were trampled in the process? And what has been the response by both Briarwood and governmental officials to the notion that the school might have committed some wrongful acts in furtherance of Lions football? Do officials at a Christian school "Do What Jesus Would Do" when confronted with evidence that their actions have caused innocent people serious harm?
We will examine these questions and more in the coming days at Legal Schnauzer. And as we've already noted, there are apparent connections between curious activities involving Briarwood football, Hoover High's previous search for a new coach, and the onset of my legal woes. All three commenced in late November, early December of 1998.
Coincidence? We'll take a look.
And speaking of questions, here is one: All of the schools cited above for various violations are public schools. But what about private schools who also are members of the AHSAA, schools such as Briarwood Christian? Do they ever draw scrutiny? Do all of their football players pay full tuition like regular kids, and if not, is that OK? Is it OK for the school to engineer a real-estate transaction to help its coach financially? Would a public school get away with such dealings?
I don't know the answer to these questions. Perhaps someone else does.