With the hiring of its newest head football coach Venson Elder last week, Rockdale has turned the page on its recent saga.
RCHS had to begin the search for Elder just four months before the start of the season after it released Mario Allen, due to several ethics violations.
Violations such as alleged recruiting and illegal practices according to Georgia High School Association's rules were discovered by RCHS administrators, who immediately went to work conducting an investigation. The investigation led to 100-plus page report created by the Rockdale Public School System, which included several interviews by coaches, players, witnesses and administrators and was sent to the GHSA.
Rockdale did not wait for the GHSA to conduct its own investigation and sent the report to its executive director Dr. Ralph Swearngin.
Swearngin responded to Rockdale's report May 31 in a page-long letter addressed to RCHS Principal Georgi Nour, attained by The News in an open records request.
The letter was complimentary of Rockdale's self-reporting of the GHSA rule violations, and issued a fine much more palatable than the possible $4,000 it could have faced.
"(Dr. Swearngin said) Rockdale went above and beyond," Nour said. "He gave us accolades for making sure we turned ourselves in."
After reviewing the violations, Swearngin fined RCHS $200 for out-of-season practices.
The letter discussed all of Rockdale's self-reported issues, starting with the "possible recruitment and/or undue influence on the part of Coach Allen in regard to a student who was enrolled at Columbia High School at the time." Swearngin said the transportation of the Columbia High player by Allen met the GHSA definition of undue influence.
The second part of the recruitment violation discussed in Swearngin's letter was that the student participated in drills with the RCHS students, a violation of GHSA rules that specify "a student must be enrolled full time at a school in order to participate in tryouts, practices or games for that school."
After reviewing the violation of practice rules, in which Rockdale conducted out-of-season football practices, which is against GHSA rules, Swearngin then explained how he came to his decision of the fine.
"It is my understanding that Rockdale County High School removed Coach Allen as soon as this information was brought to your attention, and he will not be the head football coach next season," said Swearngin in his letter to RCHS. "This immediate and decisive action influenced my judgment about penalties to be assessed against your school."
The letter explained that since Allen was removed as coach, RCHS should not be penalized for his acts of undue influence.
However, the out-of-season practice benefits the players still at RCHS, "and the school must be responsible for that action."
Rockdale is still eligible for the appeal process as outlined in the GHSA constitution.