LOGANVILLE, Ga. -
So many big time players transferred to Grayson this year that some students and coaches have referred to the school on Twitter as the "University of Grayson."
The Georgia High School Association says if you're a coach, or a parent, or even a team booster, you can't influence someone to transfer to your school. But in the new world of social media, the FOX 5 I-Team asks where is the line between right and wrong?
"I'll take a polygraph," challenged former volunteer Grayson coach Kenyatta Watson. "I'll pay for it. Never recruited a kid to come to Grayson."
Watson played receiver in college, but these days he's playing defense, vowing to clear his name and a program he's long promoted.
"It's not my fault," he insisted. "Don't blame me."
Watson coached youth football in Grayson for years. He often used YouTube and other social media to offer free college recruiting help to high school players. His tweets included pictures of Watson holding recruiting seminars for any interested kid, even ones who don't attend Grayson.
"I've got messages from kids all over the county reaching out to me hey coach, can you pass my film on to X school, and I do it," he told the FOX 5 I-Team. "That's not wrong."
According to documents obtained by the FOX 5 I-Team, the Georgia High School Association and Gwinnett County administrators began receiving complaints in January about Grayson High School, and their new assistant coach "college football advisor," Kenyatta Watson.
Keep in mind, plenty of families change school districts because of work or the economy or a better football team. In Georgia, a coach or booster is not allowed to influence that decision for a high school athlete. If they're caught, the student and the new school can be penalized.
But according to a memo from the Gwinnett County athletic director, South Gwinnett head coach John Small complained in January that Kenyatta Watson approached the father of a South Gwinnett player at a photo shoot and said his "son would look good in green and gold." Those are Grayson's colors.
The FOX 5 I-Team talked to that parent. He asked that his name not to be used because he didn't want to involve his son. The dad repeated that green and gold comment from coach Watson and even said Watson indicated they'd be missing out on being part of a state championship. According to a Gwinnett County school spokesperson, "this incident, along with some other concerns, led (Watson) being told it was in the best interest of the program if he no longer helped with the program."
"Did you ever tell a South Gwinnett player during that photo shoot that he'd look good in green and gold?" I asked.
"Never," Watson responded.
"Where would coach Small get this?"
"I don't know," replied Watson "Where are they getting the fact that I recruited the kids here?"
We kept digging. According to a Gwinnett school memo, Grayson Athletic Director Brian DeBerry admitted he was having a hard time scheduling games with other Gwinnett schools because they "were concerned about a coach (Watson) at Grayson 'recruiting' players."
Then, in early February, Central Gwinnett head coach Todd Wofford emailed the Georgia High School Association, complaining that one of his players, Eugene Mafah, decided to transfer to Grayson after attending a Kenyatta Watson recruiting seminar. "When I questioned why, he said 'Kenyatta can get me what I need.'"
But Mafah told the FOX 5 I-Team he never mentioned Watson when he told his coach he was leaving. And Watson denies ever encouraging the player to come to Grayson.
"Prove that I did it," he challenged. "That's my point. Everything every coach is saying is hearsay. There's no text messages. There's no emails. There's no voicemails. There's no pictures of me with kids."
"Is there proof that you've had some contact with these kids?"
"There's nothing. Where is it? Show me."
"On Twitter you follow seven of these kids that transferred to Grayson and six of them follow you back," I pointed out.
"And you're saying you don't have a relationship with them?"
"That's not a relationship," Watson countered. "And they followed me first."
And he stressed there were no direct messages between him and those players.
Should an assistant football coach be connecting on social media with players at rival schools? Several head coaches said they'd never allow their assistants to do that. But Kenyatta Watson insisted it was completely above board and he was simply offering encouragement or helpful college advice.
"I post a lot of stuff about kids doing exceptional things," Watson claimed. "That doesn't mean I recruited them."
It's true many of the players who transferred to Grayson certainly didn't need any college recruiting tips. They already had multiple offers. And players and parents have consistently maintained no one at Grayson recruited them to come. If so, GHSA could make them sit out a year.
Deangelo Gibbs transferred from Peachtree Ridge High School in time to play in Grayson's spring game this year. He's considered a five-star college prospect.
"It's just a coincidence that we all moved into the area at the same time," he explained after that game. "Everybody just happened to end up over here. Hey! I didn't know you was coming here! Hey so… that's how it went."
In February, after those first four blue-chip transfers arrived on campus, Watson and Grayson parted ways, although he says it was his decision, not the school's. He still has a son on the team. In the months since Watson moved on, four more star players have left their high schools for Grayson.
Watson: "You need somebody to blame because nobody can understand, why all of a sudden all these kids want to come to Grayson? Ooo. Great question. But now that I'm not there, why are kids STILL coming to Grayson? If people would focus on their program, building a top-tier program, then you wouldn't have to worry about your kids leaving your program to go anywhere."
"So it's their fault?" we asked.
"Not your fault."
"No, it ain't my fault," stressed Watson. "I didn't make them come anywhere."
One of the Grayson transfers has been warned by Gwinnett County school police he'll be arrested if he returns to his old campus. Offensive tackle Tony Gray came back to Central Gwinnett in May to watch his former teammates play in their spring game. According to documents reviewed by the FOX 5 I-Team, Gray and some students got into a "verbal altercation" over a video Gray made showing off his new address in Grayson. That prompted police to investigate. They decided to issue a criminal trespass warning to Gray.