The Observer published to our website the story about the hiring of a new head football coach after Monday night’s school board meeting, and we linked it to our Facebook page. Comments quickly came in, including one from a woman who wrote “Just bring PROPST BACK PLEASE.”
Ma’am, that isn’t going to happen.
Rush Propst may have been the best-known high school football coach in the country in 2007. His Hoover High School team’s 2005 and 2006 seasons had been featured in the MTV series “Two-A-Days.” But personal issues and other controversies ended Propst’s tenure at the Alabama high school, and Colquitt County High offered him a new start.
Since Propst came here in early 2008, he’s done some remarkable things.
The year before Propst arrived, the Packers went 2-8, and Propst’s first year was only a little better at 4-6, but since then he has not had a losing season. In total, Propst’s record with the team is 119-35, including two 15-0 seasons.
The Packers have played in the state championship game four of the last five years, winning in 2014 and 2015. The school’s only other state championship came 20 years earlier.
Propst has been praised for establishing a “pipeline,” encouraging young players to advance so that they would be ready for the varsity squad when they came of age.
Roughly 100 players have gotten college scholarships under Propst’s guidance. That’s a lot of young men looking at an entirely different future because of football.
Members of the Touchdown Club talk about Propst’s leadership in ensuring his players were well-fed because some come from homes where a good meal isn’t guaranteed. Propst talks about putting players up in a hotel the night before a game to keep them away from distractions. His efforts to remove players from bad home environments even include becoming a foster parent for a half-dozen young men.
But the coach faced serious allegations, which he has called an “inexcusable attempt to smear me, my career, and my service to the students and families of Colquitt County.” He was accused of flagrant insubordination and dishonesty, and he was called to account for the behavior of some of the team following last year’s heartbreaking loss in the state championship game.
The most serious accusation seems to be that he provided medication to players on more than one occasion. The state Professional Standards Commission is investigating that allegation.
By March, School Superintendent Doug Howell and members of the Board of Education were sufficiently convinced of the allegations to relieve Propst of his coaching duties, opening the door for Justin Rogers, head coach of the Jones County Greyhounds, to be hired Monday night.
The Colquitt County community has always supported the high school football team, but the degree of that support has ebbed and flowed over the years. With the team winning under Propst, Packer Pride became as strong as it’s ever been. People of the community developed a strong emotional tie to the team, which has shown in reaction to news of the coach’s removal.
Rush Propst is no longer the team’s head coach. Justin Rogers is, and he’s stepping into a situation filled with acrimony, suspicion and hurt feelings. It is critical for the future of Packer football that Packer fans and the community at large rally around him.
There are 130 days until the Packers take the field for the Corky Kell Classic, the first game of the 2019 season. Rogers will need everyone on board to have the team ready to win by then.