‘It needs to stop’ | Parents accuse coach of improperly recruiting players

DOUGLAS COUNTY, Ga. (Atlanta News First) – Any parent of an athlete knows how competitive high school sports can be and how frustrating it can be when your kids don’t get play time. .

But parents at an Atlanta high school say their soccer program is recruiting and competing athletes who don’t even live in the county.

Some Douglasville parents allege that Olten Downs, the head football coach at Alexander High School, is recruiting teens who don’t live in the district. One parent even admitted that she was allowing a recruiter to use her address, even though he didn’t live with her.

The Douglas County Schools System has confirmed an internal investigation has been conducted. As a result, the district determined some conversations with prospective sports parents were “inappropriate” and said “appropriate corrective action” would be taken.

Recruitment allegations

Kimberly Churchill’s son has been playing football in Douglasville since he was old enough to walk.

“He started on the peewee team, playing rec and then when he was in high school he started playing at the JV level and the varsity level,” says Churchill.

When he entered his junior year at Alexander High School, Churchill’s son had a dream of becoming an entrepreneur. But as the season progresses, his mother says he’s been replaced by kids he’s never seen at school before.

“A child drives an hour to school and an hour from school every day,” says Churchill.

After Churchill’s son left the team, she filed a complaint with the Georgia High School Association (GHSA), which oversees extracurricular activities for nearly 500 public and private schools in Georgia, alleging Downs ” Recruit foreign players for your team. . “

After Churchill's son left the team, she sent a complaint to Georgia High School...
After Churchill’s son left the team, she filed a complaint with the Georgia High School Association or GHSA, alleging that Coach Olten Downs was “recruiting out-of-area players for his team.”(Rachel Polansky)

Churchill is not the only Douglasville parent to make these claims.

Another mother, fearing a backlash, who did not want to be identified because her son still plays for Alexander, admitted she was allowing Downs to use her address for one of the recruits. of him, even though the recruiter did not live with her.

Downs, the mother said, “called me on the phone. He said, ‘I have a student living in Atlanta, and he wanted to come here to have a better life for himself and play football and I was wondering if you were okay with allowing this kid. use your address?’

“I said, that was good,” the mother recounted. She said she It was not known at the time that GHSA regulations forbade such an arrangement. “Even now, I don’t know if I’m in trouble,” she said. “I don’t know the division.”

Downs did not respond to Atlanta News First Investigates emails. When asked directly about the allegations during halftime at the Alexander High football game, Downs did not respond and fled the field.

When the Atlanta News First Investigator tried to get Coach Downs to side with the allegations, he ran...
When the Atlanta News First Investigator tried to get Coach Downs to side with the charges, he ran away.(WANF)

While Downs wasn’t speaking, another parent recorded a call between her and one of Downs’ assistant coaches. That call was shared with Atlanta News First Investigates.

During the call, the assistant coach asked if she would provide her address for an upcoming hire to use.

“He needs to have an address; he can live with me. I have no problem with that but, if he has the address, he should be able to go to that school; he will be able to go to Alexander,” said the coach.

When the parent hesitated, the assistant coach added: “I’m the kind of person who scratches your back, I scratch your back.” The mother who recorded the call thinks her son will have more playtime.

“I don’t want any children in trouble,” the mother said. “I just want it [recruiting] to stop happening. “

Recruit or unduly influence

The GHSA defines recruitment or undue influence as “the use of influence by any person directly or indirectly associated with a GHSA school to induce students of all ages to move from one school to another. other… for the purposes of sporting or literary competition.”

The GHSA also has the ability to impose penalties including fines, probation, suspension or forfeiture of the game. That’s What Happened In 2020 When The Old South Georgia Soccer Powerhouse, Valdosta High School, Was Attacked $7500 fine for recruitment violations. Five of their players were deemed ineligible, they were forced to quit winning the season and banned from the knockout stages.

Atlanta News First Investigation found that GHSA investigated 93 claims of excessive recruitment or influence over the past three years. Only 23 of them were disciplined.

Atlanta News First Investigation found that the GHSA investigated 93 claims of hiring or...
Atlanta News First Investigates found that the GHSA investigated 93 claims of excessive recruitment or influence over the past three years. Only 23 of them were disciplined. This handwritten list is provided by the GHSA. (Rachel Polansky)

While the allegations are common, GHSA CEO Robin Hines said his staff rarely have enough evidence to punish the programs.

“You can’t really move forward if it doesn’t pass legal regulation,” Hines said. “It’s a pity you have to look through that lens, but if you can’t support it in court, then you probably don’t need to move forward.”

Atlanta News First Investigates also learned of the 13 employees who make up GHSA’s offices. Only one of them is responsible for investigating misconduct.

However, Hines said his office is fully staffed. “Ninety-nine out of 100 times, [complaints or allegations] usually by disgruntled members of the community sending such things. Some of them may come true but those are few and far away. “

Hines also said that when the allegations are deemed credible, the GHSA will send a “letter of investigation” to the district and ask the school to conduct its own internal investigation.

When Atlanta News First Investigators asked if such an investigation had been sent to Alexander High School, the GHSA said it “does not comment on conducting investigations”.

“I complained,” Churchill said. “Other mothers have complained. Again, nothing was done. “

With a month left in the season, Churchill believed that tactics like recruitment had put the game out of the hands of the athletes.

“It’s just a mess and it needs to stop,” Churchill said.

The local school system responds

Atlanta News First Investigates has requested additional Downs-related complaints as of February 2021 from the Douglas County School System. The system says public records will cost $3,360. We’ve reduced the range and the price tag is still over $3,000. Atlanta News First is continuing to monitor that public records request.

Meanwhile, Atlanta News First Investigates also requested an interview with Trent North, director of the Douglas County School System. A spokesperson for the system, Portia Lake sent this statement:

More information about this investigation


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