Marshall: A Reason for Concern

Columnist Phillip Marshall gives his views on questions about Hoover High School's athletic program.

Whether anything will come of the growing scandal at Hoover High School remains to be seen, but it surely is interesting.

You have to credit Hoover officials for not following Mobile's lead and dragging the names of teen-agers through the mud, but this one could get ugly before it's over. Neither head football coach Rush Propst nor principal Richard Bishop is looking very good right now.

If Bishop isn't embarrassed, he should be. He summarily dismissed accusations of improper grade changes for athletes, only to have superintendent Andy Craig appoint retired federal judge Sam Pointer to investigate.

Pointer, incidentally, is above reproach. He is a good man, a man of honor and a man of integrity. You can rest assured he'll not be a part of any coverup.

I have no inside information on what is happening or has happened at Hoover. It may well be that Propst and Bishop both turn out to be pure and innocent. It may be that everything was done above-board. Whatever happened was enough to cause athletic director Jerry Browning to leave for Montgomery's St. James School, saying he'd had enough.

Maybe, if nothing else, the scandal will result in Hoover officials taking a hard look at their approach to athletics, particularly football. Maybe they will discover that things have gotten out of kilter.

For those of us watching from afar, it's been obvious for a long time.

Propst, with more resources and better facilities than any program in state history, has had remarkable success at Hoover, building one of the stronger high school football programs in the nation and perhaps the strongest in state history. Nothing wrong with that. But anyone who watched any of "Two-a-Days," the MTV program that followed the Hoover program from the inside, knows the program is different in other ways that aren't so good.

I watched the show twice. It made me sick the first time and sicker the second time.

It was said you can't buy the kind of national publicity Hoover got from MTV. That's true enough, but my question all along has been the same: Just what is the purpose of national publicity for a high school football program?

Rush Propst (right) talks with Auburn head coach Tommy Tuberville (left) on a visit to Auburn by the Hoover High head coach.

The right thing to do would have been to tell MTV thanks but no thanks. Hoover, of course, is not alone. Down in Florida, the right thing for Tim Tebow's family would have been to tell ESPN that no 18-year-old high school senior needed cameras following his every move for an entire year. It's bad enough that players become heroes to recruiting buffs before they are old enough to vote, but it's even worse that they have become performers in a media circus that is often over the top.

High school sports really are supposed to be extra-curricular activities. High school coaches really are supposed to be teachers first. The whole exercise really is supposed to be educational for the young men and women who play.

Have those values been lost at Hoover? You have to wonder.

You also have to wonder just where things are headed in our state. It's reasonable to assume that someone with an agenda leaked the story of grade changes for two Auburn signees to the Mobile paper. It's also reasonable to speculate that what is happening now at Hoover could be payback.

The level of hostility between supporters of the two major programs in our state has never been higher. There are those who will happily destroy the hopes and dreams and reputations of high school athletes if they believe it will help the program they happen to support.

And that really is sick.


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