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Documents detail student conversations with Shiloh coach

Brian Montgomery

Brian Montgomery

SNELLVILLE -- Documents obtained Friday through an open records request revealed details of a coach's alleged conversations with student-athletes as well as the misgivings of the district's athletic director regarding the students' eligibility to transfer to Gwinnett County Public Schools.

A letter from a parent to Shiloh High School's principal detailed the alleged recruitment attempts of former football coach Brian Montgomery, who tendered his resignation on Thursday after an investigation into recruitment violations.

In his letter to Gwinnett County Public Schools, Montgomery cited an "illness" as his reason for resigning. Montgomery told the Daily Post on Thursday that he suffered recently from diverticulitis and had an upcoming consultation for surgery.

Montgomery's resignation letter was dated three days after a letter from the district's superintendent informing Montgomery that his contract for the next year would not be renewed.

The issue began with a letter dated March 29 from the Georgia High School Association asking the school district to investigate Montgomery. The letter also threatened penalties against the school for violating a GHSA by-law involving recruiting and undue influence.

The GHSA investigation began after a first-person story in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution by Shiloh sophomore Wil Larimore, who transferred from North Atlanta after Montgomery was hired at Shiloh. A sentence early in the story read, "when (Montgomery) took the head coaching job at Shiloh, he asked several of us to transfer." The line was enough to spark the GHSA inquiry.

Documents released Friday by the school district included a letter from the mother of one of the students who described an alleged cell phone call from Montgomery to her family in which he "expressed concern and a serious interest in my son's future in football if he remains at North Atlanta."

In a testimony by a separate student obtained during the district's internal investigation, the athlete stated that he "did have conversations with Coach Montgomery about going to Shiloh and I did attend the spring game, so that I could visit the school and see it for myself.

The bylaws of GHSA prohibit such conversations.

The organization's website defines undue influence as the "use of influence by any person connected directly or indirectly with a GHSA school to induce a student of any age to transfer from one school to another."

Another student interviewed during the investigation, however, said he was "told of the great facilities" at Shiloh High School, "but was not asked to transfer."

Throughout the investigation, Montgomery has maintained his innocence.

"I haven't recruited anyone," Montgomery said. "This investigation wasn't done properly. If it's an eligibility issue, football coaches don't have any control of that. We don't do eligibility."

A letter from GCPS athletic director Mike Emery revealed doubts over whether the students were eligible to transfer in the first place with the enactment of new GHSA rules that prohibited the students from following coaches from school to school.

In a letter to Chief Human Resources Officer Frances Davis dated April 9, Emery wrote that he expressed concern to then-Shiloh athletic director Michael Nicholson in a phone conversation over the timing of the students' transfer to Shiloh.

Said Emery: "I told (Nicholson) it would look awfully strange (if anyone checked) allowing kids, especially athletes to enter during final exam week. I told him that it was not the right thing to do."

In a statement from Nicholson dated April 10, he said that at the time of the conversation he was not aware that there were allegations Montgomery had influenced students to transfer to Shiloh.

Stated Nicholson: "I assumed it was their decision to move and their parent's decision, and that they were NOT under the influence of Brian or under the influence from anyone presently at Shiloh HS to my knowledge at the time."

"I can not speak to whether or not he recruited (names redacted)," Nicholson continued. "However, it is possible giving (sic) the pressure that coaches are under to win, and it would have made his transition easier to Shiloh, but if he did have these conversations they are not appropriate, and I would have never supported or encouraged him to take this course of action. Never."