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Valdosta football in court: Shafreda Hall as Guardian of T.L. vs. Georgia High School Association

Posted at 12:22 PM, Aug 04, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-05 00:11:56-04

VALDOSTA, Fla. (WTXL) — ABC 27 Sports Director Alison Posey is in Valdosta Wednesday for the emergency hearing for Shafreda Hall as Guardian of T.L. vs. Georgia High School Association.

William Godfrey is Shafreda Hall’s attorney and is looking to overturn the GHSA’s decision to keep her son from playing football at Valdosta this year.

Dr. Todd Cason, Superintendent of Valdosta City Schools is here. GHSA Executive Director Dr. Robin Hines is here as well. The GHSA’s attorney is in court as well. He said their defense is that the plaintiff’s case fails to state a claim where relief can be granted. He is bringing up several previous GHSA cases.

Judge Cowart said he’s been on the bench for 30 years and has never had a case like this.

Godfrey said his position is that due process was not granted. Said no notice of the violations was not sent to him. He said there was one lawyer who represented VCS and two players, and the hearing the GHSA allowed to take place was “fundamentally unfair.”

There will be references to a white book during the trial. That's what the GHSA calls their constitution and by-laws.

GHSA attorney recaps the case which started all this. Four rising seniors at Valdosta High School, including Ty’li Lewis, were ruled ineligible for one year after the GHSA ruling they accepted incentives like money/gifts from then HC Rush Propst and members of the touchdown club.

Attorney saying the GHSA received a complaint from Colquitt County that Propst was recruiting their best athletes to play at Valdosta. Dr. Hines said there was nothing he could do unless there was evidence. Subsequently, they received several recorded conversations.

Attorney said Propst, in the tapes, said he was recruiting fifteen players, including five QBs. One of those 15 was Ty’li Lewis. With new evidence, Dr. Hines determined recruiting had occurred. Those four rising seniors were then ruled ineligible.

Remember, Valdosta appealed twice to the GHSA. Both were denied. Now, we are here.

The attorney says the contract is between the GHSA and the member schools. There are no rights for the individual students.

Godfrey, the plaintiff’s attorney, called Dr. Todd Cason to the stand, the superintendent of Valdosta City Schools.

Cason was given the first charge letter from GHSA to read. Five kids on it (Jake Garcia was the lone senior. Four others will be seniors this year). Godfrey asks Cason if he gave Shafreda Hall (Ty’li’s mom) a copy of the letter initially. He said no, the letter is also not addressed to her.

Godfrey asks if counsil was ever retained to represent the school system. He said yes - to represent the school and the students. Just one lawyer.

Cason said he gave the student's contact information to the lawyer, doesn’t recall giving the student's parent's contact information for the lawyer. GHSA attorney questioning Cason now. Cason said first made aware of potential violations against the football team in Jan. 2021.

He said he opened their own investigation. He said he contacted GHSA and PSC. Looked at the paperwork to confirm bonafide moves. Said he contacted the Garcia and Jones families, who were alleged to taking money in the tapes. Cason said Propst told him he did not recruit anyone.

Cason said he didn’t talk to any of the landlords. He said he didn’t actually hear the tapes until March. He said after the tapes came to light, he talked to Propst again. Put him on leave on March 9.

Godfrey objects to asking about Propst since he’s not here to defend himself. The judge allows it.

Cason said Propst told him things on tape were not true, it was “all bar talk.” Cason didn’t talk to Nub Nelson (recorder of tape) again after initially talking to him in January.

Again, Nelson originally brought tapes to Cason in January. Cason said he looked at Touchdown Club finances. Attorney bringing up burner phones now referenced in tapes. Cason said he never asked for records of said phones.

Cason confirms that the three Moultrie students (including Lewis) enrolled in June. All the paperwork showed they were bonafide moved. He said he always disputed that the three were recruited to Valdosta High School. Said didn’t find a paper trail, said Propst fabricates things.

In reference to Propst fabrications, Cason brings up the Alabama and Georgia recruits who he say got paid in those tapes which Propst later retracted.

Godfrey asks Cason how many players transferred in June of 2019. He said 15. Godfrey asks if there was another linebacker that transferred in. “I would assume so yes.” Was there another QB? “Yes. One from Florida.”

Dr. Cason is excused from the witness stand. He gives Shafreda Hall a fist bump on the way out.

Back in session. Dr. Robin Hines on the witness stand now. Godfrey just entered the white book as evidence.

Godfrey references different sections in the white book - pitch counts, concussion protocols, academic eligibility, etc. Godfrey says all of these are for the benefit of the student-athlete and they are interested in the well-being of the student-athlete.

Godfrey has Hines read a section of a by-law: “Boys may not participate on girls teams even when there is no corresponding boys sport or activity. Cheerleading is a coed sport.”

Godfrey is bringing up no practice during school hours. Now brings up events having to be completed by 11:30 on a school night. Correlates all these to benefitting the student-athlete.

Brings up a steroid policy, says steroids can’t be used by a school, that’s pertaining to a student-athlete.

“Would you agree the white book is a contractual agreement between the GHSA and Valdosta High School,” Godfrey asked.

“I would,” Hines answered.

Hines agrees the aforementioned letter was not addressed to Shafreda Hall or Ty’li Lewis. Hines said the letter wasn’t addressed to them because the contract is with the member school, not the students.

Godfrey presenting more evidence. It is the letter mailed to Dr. Cason in April.

Godfrey goes over many subsections of the letter. On April 8, 2021, Hines said he never informed Ty’li Lewis or Shafreda Hall of the sanctions handed down. Also said never notified them of the appeals process.

Hines said he was at the appeals. Confirms there was one attorney at the first appeal. Believes there was a second attorney there for the second appeal, but doesn’t recall if he was there for Ty’li Lewis.

Hines said he doesn’t recall Dr. Cason saying anybody was recruited.

The GHSA lawyer is now questioning Hines. He asks Hines to describe to the court what the GHSA is and does.

“The GHSA is a voluntary association of schools," said Hines. "They govern themselves.”

He said there are 470 member schools, around 500,000 student-athletes.

Hines said if a student is ineligible, they’re can’t play for one calendar year. He said they CAN play at the sub-varsity level.

He said the appeals process applies to the schools, not the students. Hines said he is not aware of any executive director granting a due process right to the student.

“Is it your understanding that there are no due process rights in participation in interscholastic sports,” the GHSA attorney asked.

“There are not,” said Hines.

Hines said when he received the recordings is when he thought an investigation was warranted.

“Did those recordings imply a linebacker, running back, and receiver were transferring,” asked the GHSA attorney.

“Yes,” answered Hines.

Said then tapes said the three were transferring from Colquitt County.

The attorney is submitting evidence that was submitted to the appeals board. Included are recordings of Propst and Nelson. Hines said those recordings mentioned athletes from Colquitt County that were being recruited to Valdosta.

Mentions a wide receiver, linebacker and a running back were the ones mentioned in the tapes. Those three did transfer. Attorney says Nub Nelson was swearing under oath that he was recruiting athletes to Valdosta. Also brings up a radio show where Nelson said they were recruiting.

Going over the transfer forms, says Ty’li Lewis transferred to Valdosta on September 18 of 2020. Says tapes recordings happened in May of 2020.

Hines said around 10,000 transfer requests cross his desk in a given year. He said hundreds get denied, adds they had over a thousand hardship appeals.

Hines said occasionally there are coaches trying to stack their team to sway the competitive balance. Hines said this is the first team he’s had the head coach and the head of the booster club admit to recruiting.

Godfrey coming back up to question Hines. Asks him to refer to the transfer request. Godfrey said the request ends on page 60. Page before is 42. Asks Hines what happened to the rest of the deposition. Hines said he doesn’t know.

Asks Hines if students had any rights again, or just schools. He said schools. No further questions.

Closing arguments: The attorney for GHSA said they have never had a recruiting case where the head coach and president of the touchdown club admitted to recruiting.

The GHSA attorney said he asks the court to dismiss the case.

Plaintiff attorney (Godfrey) up for closing arguments. Said the case he presented today is of “procedural deficiency.”

Godfrey reiterating the relationship between the white book and how it relates to schools/students. “Schools are brick and mortar. They would not exist without the students.” He brings up the by-laws and how Hines “admitted under oath these rules benefit students.”

Godfrey said the premise of the appeal is that neither Ty’li Lewis nor Shafreda Hall received notice of how to appeal. One of the principles of due process is fundamental fairness.

Godfrey referencing another case that cited courts will get involved when they don’t follow their own bylaws. He said the GHSA didn’t do that with Ty’li by not giving him notice of the hearing or how to appeal.

Judge Cowart said he will review everything and try to get a decision out by the first of the week. He said he knows time is of the essence.

Neither Dr. Hines nor his lawyer would give comment. Godfrey is going to speak with us soon.