RCHS resumes search for football coach

CONYERS -- The search for a head football coach at Rockdale County High School is on again after an internal investigation uncovered potential recruiting and practice violations by Mario Allen.

About two months after being announced as the new coach, Allen will no longer be the new coach. Former coach Mike Etheridge was dismissed in November.

"Mario Allen will not be working for (Rockdale County Public Schools) in any capacity," said Laura Whiddon, director of Human Resources at RCPS, on Monday, adding that he currently wasn't working in any other position at RCPS.

"He was never offered a written contract for either a coach position or a PE teacher position," she said.

Although RCHS Principal Georgi Nour confirmed Allen's hiring in February, the hiring process was not completed, according to Cindy Ball, director of Community Relations at RCPS.

RCPS announced the new search for a head football coach last week, posting a job listing for the position on April 23.

According to an investigative report by RCPS obtained by the Citizen through an Open Records request, Allen could be in violation of Georgia High School Association rules for illegal recruiting and practices.

Evidence shows that personal contact initiated by the coach persuaded transfer, transportation and an invitation to attend practices at RCHS to a student at Columbia High School in DeKalb County Schools, where Allen is currently employed.

Allen admitted to RCPS officials that he gave a ride to a student from Columbia High to RCHS earlier this year after the student's mother indicated their desire to move to Rockdale County and that the student participated in drills on the football field and in the weight room.

Fellow RCHS football coach and RCHS Athletic Director Jerrid Harris gave a statement to RCPS that the student indicated during the visit that Allen would give him an address to be able to attend the school.

GHSA bylaws define recruiting as undue influence by any person connected with a GHSA school to induce a student to transfer from one school to another and state that recruiting would lead to penalties, according to RCPS.

Bylaws also indicate that students must have a certificate of an annual physical exam to participate in practices, but the student brought to RCHS had none with him, according to the investigation.

In addition to the recruitment violation, RCPS also investigated allegations of illegal practices, defined as having three or more students participating in any extracurricular activity under supervision of any coach after the beginning of the school year and before the opening of the designated season and at other points during the year.

Video footage showed the team on the game field going through huddles and breaking into formations, as well as using footballs for directional drills by current RCHS coaches and coaches that Allen desired to be part of his coaching staff during the 2012-13 season, according to the investigation.

Additionally, RCHS Principal Nour had conversations with Allen about introducing coaches to the team and promising them jobs without her knowledge of them, the use of foul language by coaches and prospective coaches and ordering equipment without her knowledge because the booster program already was $3,000 short from the previous year, according to the investigation.

In a statement to RCPS, Allen denied the allegation of a recruitment violation, saying "no kid from anywhere has transferred to Rockdale County High School" and that he didn't promise them an address. Harris noted in his statement that Allen felt that up to 15 students might transfer from Columbia High to RCHS.

Allen alleged in his statement that he was discriminated against because of his skin color.

"I strongly feel that the (five white) coaches (at RCHS) that (Nour) told me to retain have plotted, sabotage (sic) myself and the Rockdale County High School program because they didn't want a black head football coach," he wrote in a statement, also adding that there seemed to be a problem with him bringing in five black coaches. "This is clearing (sic) a case that I have been discriminated against because of my skin or my origin. ... I know that there is a racial divide in Rockdale County High School and until it is confronted, this practice of intimidation, false claims, hidden agenda's (sic) and racism by those individual (sic) involved, will continue to be practiced."

As of Monday, the Georgia High School Association had not received any documentation on the incident, so there has not yet been an investigation opened, according to Steve Figueroa, director of Media Relations at the GHSA.

"We reported verbally last week and followed up with a letter by mail," Ball said Monday. "They may not have received the hard copy yet."

The Citizen has filed an Open Records request for the letter.

According to investigation documents, RCHS could be fined up to $500 for allowing a player to practice without an exam certificate, up to $2,000 for holding an illegal practice, $1,000 for allowing an unauthorized person to coach, up to $250 for failing to follow GHSA procedures and deadlines, up to $1,000 for allowing a non-student to tryout, practice or compete and up to $2,500 for school personnel being involved in recruiting a student for athletic purposes.

According to Allen's resume, he has been the head football coach at Columbia High since May 2009. He also has been a coach at three other Georgia high schools since August 2006, as well as Florida A&M University and Alabama A&M University from August 1996 to August 2005 and several high schools in Florida from October 1999 to July 2006.


johndoemo_ 3 years, 6 months ago

Could I suggest that the principal at that school get some help when hiring the next coach. Have input from APs, the AD, and other people who will know what they are doing. I am sure she is a nice person but high school sports can be pretty complicated and she needs to do more than call the numbers on his reference list. This Allen coach sounds like a smooth operator that got past an easy interview process and thought everyone in the program was going to be as naive as the principal. The coaches that turned him in for breaking the rules need to be commended. That took guts. This principal will continue to have to beg unqualified people to coach for her until she stops caving in to every angry parent. But I cant totally blame this principal. Dr. King picked her for the job and threw her to the wolves. It has to be hard to come from an elementary school wiping runny noses to this high school.


bigbrady 3 years, 6 months ago

You are the head coach of one school and you have players riding in your car from your former school touring the campus. With all the recruting stuff thats going on these days. Black, White, Green, or Yellow thats just plain stupid. We do not have a race issue at Rockdale. This is just stupidity.


ClaytonBigsby 3 years, 6 months ago

Here's an idea. DON'T hire a new football coach and get rid of the football program. Money is tight--focus on academics.


AWOL 3 years, 6 months ago

It would be nice for this school to get it right for once. I keep waiting. Year after year I get my hopes up that this might be the year. Someone at the top(principal or higher) does not have what it takes to build teamwork and generate excitement with the teachers and coaches. As a matter of fact, it seems that the leadership is doing the opposite. Every time i hear of a spark of hope at this school from a new teacher or coach who wants to fix something, it is never nurtured by leadership. It is either neglected until it dies out or outright squashed.


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