Franklin (N.C.) football coach Josh Brooks heard his cell phone vibrate on the kitchen table this past Sunday afternoon.
The text message was from senior lineman Kade Chapman and his family. Chapman had accepted an enrollment offer from Christ School and would be transferring immediately to the private boarding school in Arden, North Carolina, and reclassifying as a junior.
Chapman’s decision came less than three weeks before the start of the 2018 high school football season.
“He was just ripped out from underneath us,” Brooks said. “It’s very frustrating for our coaches and our team. I’m not mad at the player, but I’m upset at how things went down.”
Chapman announced his departure from Franklin to Christ School on Twitter Monday coinciding with another social media post from West Henderson linebacker Jasper Thomas, who said the same day, he too would be transferring to Christ School.
Brooks responded to Chapman’s tweet with recruiting accusations directed towards his new school and football program.
“Good luck to Kade — the process of recruiting by this school is the problem,” Brooks wrote. “You communicate with athletes, invite them to campus, and then make promises to them — that is recruiting. Go, Panthers!”
Brooks said he was told Chapman was contacted by the school on Thursday, took a visit to the campus Saturday and decided to leave Franklin by Sunday.
“I went through the recruiting process,” Brooks said. “Bottom line, it feels good to be wanted. (Christ School) has unbelievable facilities, good coaches and players. I’m not knocking the football, but I don’t agree with the process.”
The NCISAA (North Carolina Independent School Athletic Association) handbook states that coaches can’t make the first contact with a prospective athlete. If a contact is made by the athletes, coaches must refer them and their families to the admissions office.
Christ School athletic director Eric Thorp denied Brooks’ claims in a statement Tuesday.
“Christ School adheres to NCISAA policy of no first contact with students, families, or athletes. Once the school has been contacted by a student or his family, we appropriately engage in a conversation about the applicant’s credentials and ‘fit’ for Christ School,” Thorp said in the statement. “Because our matriculation begins in the 8th grade with boys from 17 states and seven foreign countries, all boys end up ‘transferring’ to Christ School.”
Transferring into a private school from a public school during high school does allow athletes the potential advantage of reclassification — an opportunity that both Chapman and Thomas took to add an extra year of high school sports.
Christ School athletic rules state students can continue to participate in athletics if they turn 19 after Aug. 1.
“This gives them an opportunity to have more time and avoid starting that college clock,” Christ School coach Tommy Langford said. “It gives these guys who want to go play college football a better chance to do so.”
Two of the Greenies top players entering the 2018 football season are also reclassified transfers. Running back Sidney Gibbs tore his right ACL in 2016 as a member of Owen’s football program and transferred to Christ School in 2017 as a reclassified junior.
He rushed for over 2,000 yards last season.
Public school athletic rules that force athletes to sit out a year for athletic transfers do not apply when a student moves from public to private school.
“Private and boarding schools don’t fall under our jurisdiction,” NCHSAA spokesperson James Alverson said. “They don’t have to abide by our rules.”
Former Reynolds standout Kaedin Robinson transferred to Christ School after suffering the same injury as Gibbs during the first scrimmage of the 2017 season. The transfer gave Robinson an opportunity to reclassify his senior season for 2018 while he recovered from his injury.
It’s not just Christ School that can offer reclassification in the Asheville area.
East Henderson rising senior quarterback Chris Hemphill transferred to Asheville School over the summer and was allowed to reclassify as a junior.