Investigation suggests Blythewood HS coach tried to recruit student athletes
COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - A WIS investigation has revealed an attempt to recruit student athletes within Richland School District Two to play football for Blythewood High School.
We have documents that suggest Blythewood Bengals head coach Jason Seidel violated Richland Two’s policy. Richland Two Chief Communications Officer, Libby Roof, confirms the district “took appropriate personnel action with the coach for violations of the district’s position on recruiting.”
According to Twitter messages WIS obtained, Seidel began communicating with at least three football players from Ridge View High School in January of 2019.
We have confirmed he had other communication with two other high school football players from within the same school district—which brings the total to five students.
The Richland Two athletics manual, which each employee must sign, says, "Recruiting of prospective students for athletic purposes is a serious ethical violation of the philosophy and ideals of interscholastic athletics and will be treated as such. For purposes of this section, recruiting is defined as an attempt by an individual(s) or group associated with a school to entice a student to attend or to transfer to a school for athletic purposes through the exertion of undue influence or any special treatment."
We have removed all the student athlete’s names for this story. We are instead referring to them as “Player X,” distinguishing them with different letters.
In an exchange with Player A, on January 13, Seidel stated, "The quicker you guys get here, the more I can do with you in the weight room." Seidel added, "Let the guys know that."
On January 15, Seidel continued the dialogue with Player A. Seidel remarked about Player A's coach at Ridge View High School, Perry Parks. He wrote to Player A, "So Perry Parks put on Twitter a mandatory team meeting tomorrow." Seidel added, "I bet it's about all his guys wanting to leave. One of his assistant coaches asked one of my assistants if I had a job for him lol."
From there, the conversation turned toward the recruitment of a neighboring school's student athlete. Seidel asked Player A, "So you feel good about [Player B] coming? … Doesn't Westwood have a good WR [wide receiver]?" Player A responded, "Yeah, but him and [Player C] don't get along, & trust me, I know."
Seidel then returned his focus to meeting Player A's mom. He told Player A to "have her call me." Seidel emphasized the need for her to do so, because "I technically cannot call her. Don't wait for something to happen; make it happen. Find a way."
By January 23, Seidel wanted Player A to erase all the messages the two exchanged and talk to a football parent. He said, "So, delete our convo and hit Craig Smith up, so we can make sure you are taken care of."
Craig Smith is the parent of a Blythewood High School football player who, our investigation shows, communicated with the same students as the coach. Smith reached out to a Ridge View student athlete, Player F. Smith wanted to check in on Player F before a football meeting at Ridge View with Blazers head coach Perry Parks.
"What's up, Kid," Smith wrote. "I know y' all got a meeting today and it might be about folks hearing about a star group of y' all leaving. Do what's best for you even if it means staying. I'm a dad of a black son, and I want what's best for my kid, and it makes me always want to see young black men succeed more than anything. Just move with your eyes and heart and not with your ears."
We spoke with Smith about his Twitter exchanges with Player D and Player F.
Smith said, “I mentor a lot of kids, some student athletes and some who are not student athletes, in and out of the Midlands. Some include Ridge View student athletes who reach out to me for guidance, for an ear that they can bend about life and growth as young men. That is still the case. This has apparently created some angst with the Ridge View head coach and the principal. That’s who I am. I’m a really big believer in the village. I’m a really big believer in being a mentor for kids, in particular, young black men. And that won’t stop. I believe the statement [Twitter message exchange] that you have reflects the fact that it is a big deal for me.”
Another of Smith’s exchanges with Player F said, “You are the only RV [Ridge View] kid on the list, young fella. I need you to take your grades and GPA seriously!! You are getting close to your dreams!”
Here’s what Smith had to say about that list:
“There is no actual list. There were a bunch of kids from different schools, and this is an unfortunate time these days, there is a transfer portal, I think there’s a transfer portal for pop warner ball these days. So, there were a bunch of kids who have been considering different schools. As far as the list of kids in my head, kids were thinking about various schools, and in particular Blythewood. At that particular time, if I remember correctly, [Player F] was actually the only kid that was considering moving.”
No district official has suggested that Smith engaged in any wrongdoing.
In other exchanges, Blythewood Bengals head coach Jason Seidel contacted Player D with the hopes of meeting the player’s mother. But it was a potential meeting Seidel wanted no one to know about.
“I would like to meet her when she can,” Seidel said. “I want you both comfortable. But you and your mom can’t say we met either.”
Seidel also attempted to help Player D connect with a college program.
“Just sold you to Wofford,” Seidel remarked. “You need to DM [direct message] the Wofford coach. Let him know you’re coming here.”
None of these players transferred to Blythewood High School, despite Seidel’s efforts. But that didn’t keep Richland Two from addressing the matter, taking what they call “appropriate personnel action.”
But Ridge View High School officials say they were not satisfied with how the district handled the matter.
In March 2019, the principal of Ridge View submitted an appeal to the Richland Two assistant superintendent for middle schools and high schools to request that they collect evidence of these communications, submit them to the South Carolina High School League (SCHSL), and verify that any punishment of Seidel “reflect the time and resources spent in investigating” the possible recruitment violation.
On April 12, district administrators shared the written evidence of the conversations with the SCHSL.
Officials there said, “no violation with the S.C.H.S.L. occurred,” because the students did not transfer, according to Roof.
We reached out to Blythewood High School officials and to Seidel for comment.
The Blythewood principal, Matthew Sherman, referred us to Richland Two officials for information in regard to this matter. Seidel did not make an official comment.
Former Westwood High School head football coach, Dustin Curtis, who left the school earlier this year, provided his perspective on this matter.
“I loved my two stints in Richland 2," Curtis said. "I think they have a great academic vision, wonderful facilities, and I have great relationships with many administrators in the district. In my experience, however, as a head coach, the current policies in place regarding school choice, magnet programs, and no true feeder programs are some of the natural causes for these issues. It allows kids and coaches to play the game and to me that creates stress among coaches to walk the blurry lines. I sometimes felt like I had to recruit my own kids in order to retain them.”
Another district employee familiar with the situation said, “It’s frustrating when you know they’re not on the same playing field that you are and something can be done about it.”
Our investigation continues into whether other players or school officials have been involved in recruitment practices that go against district or league policies.
As you will read below, WIS has the online messages that were exchanged between Seidel and student athletes, along with Smith and those players. All conversations we have on record occurred from December of 2018 through January of 2019.
- Seidel to Player A on 1/13/19- “The quicker you guys get here the more I can do with you in the weight room. Let the guys know that. Whoever is coming, now is the time. I don’t play when it comes to the weight room. And guess who just call me. Wake Forest is coming tomorrow at 3.”
- Seidel to Player A on 1/15/19- “Tell him I would love to meet him and the parents.” [WIS is not sure who ‘him’ refers to in this case]
- Seidel to Player A on 1/15/19- “So Perry Parks put on Twitter a mandatory team meeting tomorrow. I bet it’s about all his guys wanting to leave. One of his assistant coaches asked one of my assistants if I had a job for him lol. Haha. He is going to try to use his charm to convince the team to stay. And probably trash me and Blythewood.”
- Seidel to Player A on 1/18/19- “So you feel good about Player B coming. Our meeting should be good. Doesn’t Westwood have a good WR. Shit, we have more than Burrell.”
- Player A to Seidel on 1/18/19- “Yeah but him and Player C don’t get along & trust me, I know.”
- Seidel to Player A on 1/18/19- “Haha.”
- Seidel to Player A on 1/18/19- “Are you with her?
- Player A to Seidel on 1/18/19- “No sir I’m at my grandmothers.”
- Seidel to Player A on 1/18/19- “Or at your grandma’s? Would she come to Blythewood today/tonight and talk with me? Would that help?”
- Player A to Seidel on 1/18/19- “Coach, I’m not going to lie to you, she got epilepsy and bipolar disorder to it’s a little harder to get to her & she wouldn’t come because she can’t drive.”
- Seidel to Player A on 1/18/19- “Have her call me. I technically cannot call her. Don’t wait’ for something to happen, go make it happen. Find a way.”
- Player A to Seidel on 1/18/19- “Its very hard to explain.”
- Seidel to Player A on 1/18/19- “I understand… just let me know what to do.”
- Player A to Seidel on 1/18/19- “And Player F withdrew yesterday.”
- Seidel to Player A on 1/18/19- “Cool. That’s good news.”
- Seidel to Player A on 1/20/19- “Cool. Just need your lazy ads getting over too lol.”
- Player A responds to Seidel on 1/20/19- “Chill you kno Im ready just gotta get my momma signature u know my grandad gon get us straight lol.”
- Seidel to Player A on 1/23/19- “So delete our convo and hit Craig Smith up so we can make sure you are taken care of.”
- Seidel to Player A on 1/22/19- “Any word?”
- Seidel to Player A on 1/23/19- “Need to get your family members to help.“
- Seidel to Player A on 1/23/19- [Sends pictures of Blythewood helmets to player.]
- Seidel to Player A on 1/26/19- “Checking on you. Making sure you and family doing ok.”
- Seidel to Player D on 1/12/19- “Coach Parker Smith called me. So tomorrow at noon?”
- Seidel to Player D on 1/12/19- “You bringing your mom tomorrow?”
- Seidel to Player D on 1/12/19- “Absolutely. But you and your mom can’t say we met either.”
- Seidel to Player D on 1/12/19- “Ok. I would like to meet her when she can. I want you both comfortable.”
- Seidel to Player D on 1/14/19- “Where you guys live?”
- Seidel to Player D on 1/14/19- “I can meet you there. Not a problem. 6pm?”
- Seidel to Player D on 1/15/19- “Any way you all can meet Thursday instead?”
- Seidel to Player D on 1/15/19- “So what’s the story with Player E?”
- Seidel to Player D on 1/15/19- “Get him.”
- Seidel to Player D on 1/15/19- “Just sold you to Wofford.”
- Seidel to Player D on 1/15/19- “You need to DM the Wofford coach.”
- Seidel to Player D on 1/15/19- “Let him know you’re coming here.”
- Smith to Player A on 12/14/18: “What’s up, Kid? Are you here at the game? I’m hearing good things about you. My son plays at BHS and folks want you over here.”
- Player A to Smith on 12/14/18: “Wassup coach & yes sir, I’m here.”
- Smith to Player A on 12/14/18: “Come over in the corner behind in the BHS bench at halftime. I’ll have on a black jacket with a W on it. What you got on?”
- Craig Smith to Player F- “I heard Parks gave you a hard time when folks approached him about leaving.”
- Craig Smith to Player F- “Can’t get it all in. I’m driving now. You are the only RV kid on the list, young fella. I need you to take your grades and GPA seriously!! You are getting close to your dreams!”
- Craig Smith to Player F- “What’s up, Kid? I know y’all got a meeting today and it might be about folks hearing about a star group of y’all leaving. At the end of the day, do what’s best for you even if it means staying. I’m a dad of a black son and I want what’s best for my kid and it makes me always want to see young black men succeed more than anything. Just move with your eyes and heart and not with your ears.”
- Craig Smith to Player D on 1/16/19- “You staying now? Just know that I’m not joking in that I want you to feel good with whatever choice you make. I mean that.”
- Craig Smith to Player D on 1/16/19- “Are folks nervous about y’all leaving? How did the meeting affect you?”
"In January 2019 the Ridge View High School principal reported possible recruitment of current football players by a Blythewood High football coach and a parent. The report was made to the district’s Chief Administrative Services Officer who oversees athletic operations in Richland Two.
The district administrator conducted an investigation, met with the principal and head coach of Blythewood High, and took appropriate personnel action with the coach for violations of the district’s position on recruiting.
The Richland School District Two athletics manual provides the following regarding recruiting:
“Recruiting of prospective students for athletic purposes is a serious ethical violation of the philosophy and ideals of interscholastic athletics and will be treated as such. For purposes of this section, recruiting is defined as an attempt by an individual(s) or group associated with a school to entice a student to attend or to transfer to a school for athletic purposes through the exertion of undue influence or any special treatment.”
The Chief Administrative Services Officer also met with the principal and athletic director of Ridge View High to share the results of the investigation. In this meeting, the district administrator shared the following:
- The S.C. High School League was informed of the possible recruitment violations, which is also a violation of the league’s rules and regulations. SCHSL informed the district that due to the fact that the students who were contacted did not transfer, no violation with SCHSL occurred. Any consequences issued to the coach would be left to the district and not the SCHSL.
- A meeting was held with the principal and coach of Blythewood High School to address the matter and inform the coach of the appropriate personnel actions taken in response to the results of the investigation.
- Personnel matters are confidential, therefore the district administrators cannot share details on the personnel actions with the Ridge View High administrators.
In March 2019, the principal of Ridge View High submitted an appeal to the Richland Two Assistant Superintendent for middle schools and high schools to request the collection of evidence be submitted to the SCHSL and to verify that the consequences for the Blythewood High coach “reflect the time and resources spent in investigating” the possible recruitment violation.
The district administrators met with the SCHSL on April 12, 2019, and shared the written evidence of the situation. At that meeting the SCHSL confirmed that due to the fact that the students who were contacted did not transfer, no violation with SCHSL occurred. Any consequences issued to the coach would be left to the district and not the SCHSL.
Additionally, the assistant superintendent confirmed that appropriate personnel action was taken with the coach.
Richland School District Two takes recruitment violations seriously and believes that everyone must abide by the spirit of the rule in order to remain fair, consistent and honorable throughout all of our schools’ athletic programs.
At the beginning of each school year, all coaches in the district must review the district’s Athletic Staff Operations Manual and sign a form stating that they agree to read the manual and adhere to all rules and regulations. Also, athletic directors at the schools conduct annual meetings with coaches.
Starting this school year Richland Two is holding our first “All Athletic Coaches Conference.” All coaches who are full-time Richland Two employees are required to attend and other coaches are encouraged."
A. The recruiting or proselytizing of student athletes shall be considered a violation of the spirit and philosophy of the rules and regulations governing high school athletics.
B. A student may not be subjected to undue influence or any special inducement by any person, or group, in any attempt to entice him/her to transfer for athletic purposes. Some examples of undue influence are:
- Asked by a member of the school faculty or member of a “booster organization” of a school to transfer from one school to another.
- Financial aid for transportation, room, board or clothing.
- Promise of a job for the student and/or parent or guardian.
- Special privileges given to parents such as employment, free or reduced rent, etc.
- Promise of help in securing a college scholarship.
- Other privileges or consideration made to induce or influence the student to transfer from one school to another because of his/her athletic ability.
- Given any consideration not afforded other students.
C. Any student transferring as a result of recruiting or undue influence may be declared ineligible for a period of one calendar year from the date of the determination of the violation. Any school adjudged guilty of being part of such undue influence shall be subjected to disciplinary action by the League.
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