Sports Arena

Alabama Friday Nights

This time it's a high-powered suburban high school that's in the throes of a scandal.

By 11.8.07

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High school and college football is a religion in Alabama. There are only two seasons: football season and talking about the next football season. So successful at winning football games, Hoover High School head coach Rush Propst has been a saint to many.

Hoover is a growing affluent suburb of Birmingham, and Hoover High School is the older of two public high schools there. Hoover won four straight state championships from 2002 to 2005. In national rankings of elite high school football teams, the Hoover Buccaneers have been ranked as high as fourth. A number of former Hoover stars play on college teams now and a few have made it to the National Football League.

Due in part to this success, MTV aired two seasons of "Two-a-Days," a documentary series focusing on Propst, Hoover players and their friends both on and off the football field. Think "Friday Night Lights" with real people, not actors. Requests for Hoover Buccaneer paraphernalia poured in from all over the country. Hoover's game with elite John Curtis High School of metropolitan New Orleans was televised nationally on ESPN's high school sports network.

Now Propst has apparently fallen from sainthood. In addition to forfeiting four games this year for using an ineligible transfer player, Propst abruptly resigned the coaching job he took in 1999. However, he said that he should remain Hoover's head coach throughout the 2007 high school playoffs and then be an administrator paid his approximately $101,000 annual salary until the end of August 2008. Although the average teacher in Alabama makes about $40,000 per year, the Hoover School Board has often caved in to Propst and granted this request. They also agreed to give Propst a $141,000 annuity when he leaves.

What did Propst do to land in such hot water? Allegations include grade-changing for academically-challenged football players and spying on their rival Vestavia Hills Rebels at practice. Propst boosters tend to blame the charges on fans of the other Hoover high school, the younger Spain Park, which is not nearly as talented in football, and view the minority of school board members that does not want Propst to coach any more Buccaneer games as Spain Park Jaguar partisans.

Spain Park, however, has had nothing to do with Propst's major public transgression, however; he has fathered three children out of wedlock in another town. He denies being romantically involved with a current Hoover assistant principal. So far there has been no comment from Tammy Propst or the couple's children in Hoover.

In tearful testimony to the Hoover school board, Propst admitted that he had made mistakes. However, he blamed the charge of grade-changing on a principal who got the boot this summer and a zealous assistant coach. He blamed another assistant coach for spying on the rival. Propst portrayed himself as the victim of turmoil, noting there have been three Hoover school superintendents, six Hoover high school principals and three Hoover mayors in eight years, as if he and his boosters had nothing to do with any of this.

When "Two-A-Days" aired, Propst apologized repeatedly for using salty language on the program. Apparently, swearing on MTV was the least of his transgressions.

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About the Author

Mark G. Michaelsen writes frequently about public affairs.