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THURSDAY, JUNE 21, 2007
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Hoover school chief investigating sports programs

HOOVER (AP) — The city school superintendent is investigating concerns about football and other sports at prep powerhouse Hoover High School, where the principal said Wednesday unfounded rumors were behind the review.

Superintendent Andy Craig told The Birmingham News that Jerry Browning, Hoover's athletics director for three years, came to him with concerns about the school's athletic programs before he resigned to take over as athletics director at Saint James Academy, a private school in Montgomery.

Craig said he was investigating but would not elaborate, saying he did not want to speculate on anything.

Hoover Principal Richard Bishop said Browning went to the superintendent after speaking with him about issues including player eligibility and grades. Bishop said a school review found that everything Browning mentioned were "unfounded rumors."

"When you're a high-profile school with a high-profile athletic department, a lot of rumors come out on the Internet and on talk radio," Bishop said. "Most everything Mr. Browning expressed to Mr. Craig — all of them — came from those kind of things."

Browning, who has not elaborated publicly on his reasons for leaving Hoover, told The News in an interview Tuesday that he first raised concerns in a meeting with Craig on April 19.

"I thought and still think it's appropriate that if, or when, some issues become public, I felt an obligation that the superintendent needed to be aware," Browning said.

Steve Savarese, the incoming executive director of the Alabama High School Athletic Association, said he was unaware of the Hoover investigation.

"We don't go out on a witch hunt," Savarese said. "We know this: If there's an impropriety ethically, the superintendent would call us and we would look into it. If they need us, they'll call us."

Hoover won five of the last six Class 6A football championships, and the school was featured for two seasons on the MTV show "Two-A-Days," which brought both national acclaim and local criticism over the language and methods of head coach Rush Propst.

The school recently has been at odds with the state athletic association over the board's refusal to let it play a football game in Ohio on a Sunday.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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