A controversial - and now fired - South Georgia high school football coach is accused of providing pills to student-athletes, misallocating school funds and owing $443,000 in state and federal taxes, according to a Colquitt County School’s internal investigation, obtained by First Coast News.
Thomas “Rush” Propst was relieved of his coaching duties Thursday by the Colquitt County School Board, but remains on paid suspension while under investigation by the Georgia Professional Standards Commission.
Propst is the highest paid high school football coach in the Peach State, earning $141,000 during the 2017-‘18 school year.
Propst is also the second highest paid employee in the school district, only behind the superintendent. Propst has served as Colquitt County High football coach for 11 years.
The internal investigation into Propst centered around four areas of concern: conduct with students, legal compliance, honesty and problems with the football operations. The most significant allegation involves Propst giving medicine to student-athletes, a violation of the Georgia Code of Ethics for Educators, according to the School Board’s internal investigation.
Colquitt County Schools Superintendent Doug Howell wrote, “based on the evidence provided during the investigation, statements provided show Coach Propst on more than one occasion gave pills to students out of his pocket, in the office area, at halftime and at his truck.”
The report says the district found evidence Propst gave a pill to a student at halftime [of a football game] and medical personnel described the student as “dazed and lethargic after getting a pill from Coach Propst.”
The Georgia Code of Ethics for Educators says “unethical conduct includes but is not limited to furnishing tobacco, alcohol, or illegal/authorized drugs to any students.” The report is based on letters from a team trainer and the team’s doctor.
The allegations date back to 2012.
“I have seen and heard about Coach Propst giving players medicine during this past 2018 season, to control pain and /or swelling,” Colquitt County High School athletic trainer Ryan Kebler wrote. “There were times during this 2018 season I would see him give a player medicine from his pocket, call a player to his office, or have the player meet him at his truck. Players would also come to me with an injury issue and upon having a conversation with them, they would say things like, ‘Coach gave me some medicine,’ and ‘I got some pain pills from Coach Propst.’”
The report adds, “Coach would talk about this player or that player needs to take some Celebrex to reduce their swelling. If the team [doctor] deems [sic] it was necessary, then I would handle the medicine part for that player. Other times, coach would take it upon himself to determine if a player needed medicine and how much they would get, because he would give it to them,” Kebler wrote.” Celebrex is a prescription medication used to treat mild to moderate pain.
The team doctor, Dr. Gary Swartzentruber, recounted an incident in 2012 in which Propst gave medication to an injured player at halftime. Since then the doctor wrote, he had not seen Propst give any more medications. Three assistant coaches described similar instances of Propst dispensing meds. One recalled blue Aleve pills being given to players. Other coaches said they weren’t sure what type of medicine was being distributed.
One assistant wrote, “a lot is done [at Colquitt County High] that is not done anywhere else.”
As First Coast News previously reported, nearby Thomasville City Schools was caught on camera giving football players IV therapy on a school bus and in hallways. After the initial story ran, First Coast News obtained text messages in which Thomasville City Schools board members cited Colquitt County High as their inspiration for the practice.
“Moultrie [Colquitt County High] does IV therapy too ….,” board member David Cone texted. “Where did you think [Thomasville coach Zach] Grage learned it from?”
A Colquitt County administrator previously told First Coast News they only administered IV fluids rarely, and in emergency situations. Reached via email Monday, a school district spokesperson declined further comment.
The investigation also found that Propst:
* Owes $301,317 in federal income taxes and $143,000 in delinquent state taxes.
* Interfered with the hiring of Colquitt County High School Principal Jamie Dixon
* Attempted to charge $143.66 for a personal hotel stay to the school system in Atlanta.
Howell concluded, “the totality of the evidence and facts in this case support that conclusion that Rush Propst has not upheld the dignity and integrity of the education profession that the Georgia Code of Ethics for Educators demands.”