Washington (Pensacola, Fla.) assistant football coach George Schellang said Tuesday that high-profile recruit Darius Paige was encouraged to transfer to Foley (Ala.) High at the urging of a University of Alabama assistant football coach.
Paige, a 6-3, 275-pound senior defensive tackle, has said he plans to sign with Alabama. He's listed as the No. 38 player overall in the 2013 class by Rivals.com and the No. 49 player in the class by Scout.com.
"Darius came in the office one day during the summer after coach (Mike) Smith left and sat down and told me coach (Jeremy) Pruitt, who is the Alabama coach who was recruiting him, wanted him to go to Foley High School," Schellang told the Pensacola News-Journal. "Basically, he said (Foley High) could take care of him academically.
"My reaction was shock and dismay that a Division I coach would tell a high school athlete that he needed to transfer, that they had people there to help."
Alabama football spokesman Jeff Purinton said the school could not comment on what Pruitt did or didn't do because it could violate NCAA rules by discussing current recruits. He added that colleges are allowed to tell prospects what they need to do to be academically eligible to sign a letter-of-intent.
Paige was academically ineligible this past spring at Washington High. However, he has a better chance of making up credits at Foley, where a student can accumulate eight credits over a school year, compared to only six at Washington.
Foley coach Todd Watson, who coached with Pruitt when they were both assistants at Hoover, Ala., told USA TODAY Sports that Paige will not be able to practice until it is determined that his transfer has met Alabama High School Athletic Association guidelines.
"It will take some time," Watson said. "First, he has to get enrolled in school here. Once that happens, we have to check on his academic and transfer eligibility status."
AHSAA spokesman Ron Ingram said the AHSAA could look into Paige's transfer if Foley or any other AHSAA member requested an investigation. Citing privacy laws, he could not say if such a request had been made. As far as whether Pruitt encouraged Paige to transfer, that would not violate AHSAA guidelines, Ingram said, unless it was found that Paige had been given a monetary enducement.
The AHSAA mandates that a student who transfers must move with all principal members of his family to his new residence and that the family's original residence not still be used by the family. Another factor that could hurt Paige is if a student-athlete is ineligible in his former school, he would have to clear up that issue before being allowed to play at his new school. In addition, Paige's family will have to stay at least nine months at the new residence for Paige to stay eligible.
"People have been transferring for academic reasons for years," Watson said. "The idea of moving a kid to better themselves at a school is not a new concept. It's just when it involves athletics, it's a problem."
Foley has had several high profile athletes who went on to play at Alabama, including wide reciever Julio Jones, offensive lineman D.J. Fluker and defensive back Robert Lester.