To Hell With Georgia: Pair Of UF Commits Sidelined By GHSA
Chief Borders was in the running for the 2020 high school Butkus Award, which honors the best high school linebacker in the country. Carlos Del Rio was set to be the starting quarterback for the second-best high school football team in the State of Georgia.
And when all was said and done, the tandem of Georgia products would then start their collegiate campaigns at the University of Florida.
But the Georgia High School Association (GHSA) had other plans for the pair of Florida commits.
Georgia’s high school football season got underway on September 4.
Neither Borders nor Del Rio played in week one… or week two. And by the looks of it, they won’t be playing in week three either.
Both Borders and Del Rio played with each other at McEachern High School in the 2019-20 season. Together, the pair helped the Indians to a 12-1 overall record -- including a 12-0 regular season.
But, according to Borders’ attorney Jason Thompson, Borders and Del Rio were just two of 17 total football players to leave McEachern’s football program after a head coaching change in the offseason.
“There’s a reason 17 kids left at once,” Thompson assured GatorBait.
Borders had elected to transfer to Carrollton High School, which is 45 miles northeast of McEachern, while Del Rio was set to play for Grayson High School, located 52 miles east of his former school.
However, the GHSA has since thrown a massive wrench into the plans.
As announced the day before both Borders’ and Del Rio’s first game with their new team, the pair was deemed ineligible by the GHSA.
And it’s been a fight ever since.
Players like Borders and Del Rio were told that as long as they and their family made a “bona fide move”, that they would be eligible.
Per GHSA’s by-law 1.62, to be considered a “bona fide move”, the student must have “moved simultaneously with the entire parental unit or persons he/she resided with at the former school, and the student and parent(s) or persons residing with the student live in the service area of the new school.”
According to Thompson, Borders and his family all moved before the start of school.
“There’s a huge disparity when talking who can play and who can’t,” Thompson says. “Chief followed all of the rules.”
In Del Rio’s case, because his adopted brother didn’t move with the family, he can’t play.
Del Rio voiced his concerns on his Twitter page after missing the opening game of Grayson’s season:
“So let me get this straight @OfficialGHSA, I can’t play my senior year (because) my adopted brother @javondbaker7, that’s in Alabama playing football didn’t move with me???? That’s crazy smh!! Glad I’m leaving smh!”
As Thompson explains, you’d think that since Del Rio has moved with his parental unit, that he should be immediately eligible for competition at Grayson.
Both Gators commits have since consulted local attorneys to help them in their battles. Their struggles have also garnered the attention of Georgia’s elected officials -- including its governor and state senate candidate.
Borders and Thompson have already lost their initial appeal to the GHSA’s decision.
“There’s no real due process for the student,” Thompson explained to GatorBait. “Just the school. And it’s hard to understand GHSA by-laws.”
In other words, Carrollton, Borders’ new school, is the one that has to go to bat for the 2021 Gators commit.
“He’s the poster child for this,” Thompson says of his client. “He’s basically a 3.9-4.0 A.P. honors student. Chief is a kid that other kids gravitate towards… the type everyone wants their kid to be like.”
And now the All American-type student-athlete won’t be able to participate in his senior year of sports because of the politics that come with running a high school athletic association. Or, as some Gators fans have pointed out, because of the politics that come with committing to Dan Mullen rather than Kirby Smart.
Of course, that’s all speculation. But that’s all Thompson can go off of, too.
Thompson questions whether or not there is “some sort of retaliation” being brought down from the GHSA. Perhaps those at McEachern have connections with the GHSA.
“There’s no proof of that,” Thompson admits. “But I don’t know what else it would be.”
Thompson isn’t the most complimentary of the GHSA. It’s not his first run-in with the association, and if things don’t change soon, it won’t be his last.
“It’s destroying kids' lives,” Thompson told GatorBait.
Borders’ attorney is quick to reference some of the families that use everything they have to uproot their families so that their child can play football for a successful program.
“Some of these families have no money,” Thompson says. “This is their only ticket out.”
Thankfully for Borders and Del Rio, they’ve already done their part in constructing enough game film to get offers.
Borders, though committed to Florida since November of 2019, has continued to reel in offers. His most notable one as of recent came from the desk of David Shaw at Stanford.
Meanwhile, Del Rio, who committed to Dan Mullen and the Gators in July of 2019, has a long list of offers ranging from Virginia Tech to Auburn.
However, to the others who are grappling with the GHSA to regain eligibility, not all of them are as lucky.
And Thompson recognizes this.
“Sunlight is the best disinfectant,” Thompson told GatorBait. This is affecting these kids. Could be my kids… anyone’s kids.”
Right now, it just so happens that it’s two of Dan Mullen’s kids.