Valdosta (Ga.) High School football coach Rush Propst on leave pending investigation into improper benefits allegations

Valdosta High School placed football coach Rush Propst on administrative leave on Tuesday, pending a Georgia High School Association investigation into allegations that he arranged for improper benefits to players' parents to move with their sons into the school district and other misconduct, sources confirmed to ESPN.

Propst declined comment when contacted by ESPN on Thursday.

"I am aware of the questions surrounding the VHS football coach," Valdosta City School superintendent Dr. William "Todd" Cason said in a statement provided to ESPN on Thursday. "This is a personnel matter that is currently under investigation; therefore I am not at liberty to discuss details about the topic."

Propst's leave comes less than a week after audio recordings surfaced on social media in which he accused the University of Alabama and University of Georgia of paying high school prospects hundreds of thousands of dollars to play for them.

Sources told ESPN that Propst has provided Alabama and Georgia officials with affidavits in which he denied having personal knowledge of recruiting violations committed by either program.

Michael "Nub" Nelson, former executive director of the Valdosta Touchdown Club, told ESPN on Thursday that compliance officials from both Alabama and Georgia contacted him earlier this week about the audio recordings.

Nelson, 65, said he secretly recorded Propst during a meeting in the coach's office on May 16.

"I don't know why," Nelson said. "I'd never recorded anyone in my life."

During the meeting, according to Nelson, Propst got up from his chair and closed his office door. That's when Propst suggested that the Bulldogs and Crimson Tide pay their recruits $90,000 to $100,000 to sign with them. Propst also suggested a Georgia booster paid former Bulldogs star running back Nick Chubb a total of $180,000 in three installments to return to the team for his senior season in 2017.

Chubb, now a starter with the Cleveland Browns, denied the allegations on Twitter on Monday.

In an earlier sworn deposition as part of a civil lawsuit filed by former Valdosta High coach Alan Rodemaker, Nelson accused Propst of paying star quarterback Jake Garcia's parents $2,500 per month for rent and other expenses after they moved from California to Valdosta last summer. The Garcias made the cross-country move after high school football in California was delayed because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Garcia played only one game for the Wildcats before the Georgia High School Association ruled him ineligible because he and his family hadn't made a bona fide move.

In an earlier ESPN story, Randy Garcia, his father, said that he and his wife, Yvonne, legally separated to meet the GHSA's transfer requirements.

After leaving Valdosta, Garcia transferred to Grayson High School in suburban Atlanta, where he helped lead the Rams to a Class AAAAAAA state championship. Garcia, the No. 18 player in the ESPN 300, signed with Miami and enrolled at the university in January.

Nelson also said during the deposition that Propst was seeking $850 per month to pay expenses for transfer quarterback Amari Jones.

"[Propst] starts talking about funny money and the players he's dealing with and what he's done in the past," Nelson said. "I didn't go in there to get him. I went in there to find out about the Touchdown Club. He volunteered everything to get him."

Nelson, who served on the Touchdown Club's board of directors for 17 years, said the club fired him on Feb. 22.

Propst, 63, has been one of the most successful and controversial high school coaches in the country. After winning five state championships at Hoover High in Alabama, Propst announced his resignation in October 2007, effective at the end of the season, after an investigation alleged improprieties in his program and concluded that he had quietly supported a second family in another town. Propst, who was married with children at the time, eventually divorced his wife and married the woman with whom he shared his secret life.

After leaving Hoover, Propst won two more state championships in 11 seasons at Colquitt County High in Moultrie, Georgia. In March 2019, he was fired after a school board investigation alleged he committed ethics violations. In an interview with ESPN in September, Propst denied the allegations.