Athens Drive student-athletes transfer to private school for promised tuition, transfer back after football season

Adam Shefet, Sports Editor

In the fall prior to the 2018 high school football season, four Athens Drive students transferred to Fayetteville, N.C.’s Village Christian Academy. Two of these students, Geo-Vany Cannon and Isaiah Henderson say they were forced to transfer back to Athens Drive after being told their tuition was not paid and they could no longer attend classes.

The North Carolina Independent Schools Athletic Association (NCISAA) rule book states that “no player may receive any form of financial aid for athletic participation.” Despite this ruling, Henderson claims to have been recruited by Village Christian at an East Carolina football camp in June. Cannon and Henderson’s families have come out and said that school officials promised the players that tuition would be covered if they played for the Village Christian football team.  

The Village Christian Academy Knights won the 2018 N.C. Independent Schools Athletic Association Division III state championship, winning the final 39-8 after scoring 39 consecutive points. This put their record for the season at 11-1 and their first championship game win after two straight losses in the years prior.

After the season ended, the players and their families were notified of their dues. The school charges $6,550 annually, which can be paid in monthly installments or in full.

“They kept giving me proposals. First time it was like they’ll help, but said they couldn’t do it all. Then they said, ‘We need you to bring five dollars every day,’ and I was like, ‘That’s still probably too much for my family.’ Then that’s when they said they’ll pay it full,” said Henderson to WRAL.

Cannon says he was not recruited but rather, he decided to go to Village Christian because some of his teammates were transferring. He notified the school officials of his financial issues and was assured they (the financial problems) would be taken care of.

“When I first got there, nobody was paying, so once they found out about that and I told them my situation and stuff, that’s when [his wife] and Emerson Martin were saying they were going to pay for it,” said Cannon.

After the football season ended, the player’s parents began receiving notices in the mail for tuition payments. The players say that when they would confront the principal of these letters, he would brush the payments aside saying his church would cover the costs.

The players continued to attend school until they began being turned away for past due balances. When they arrived to school Jan. 28, they were not allowed into class and were waiting for the school to cover their tuition. Feb. 4, the students claim that the superintendent of the school, Tom Rider, turned them away completely.

That same day Henderson’s mother received an email from the school that she was needed for a meeting the next day. It was not to be about money but instead to ensure her involvement in her son’s athletic career as they claimed he was being scouted by major schools such as UNC. When she arrived she was told she had to pay $1,100 by Feb. 8 or her son would be unenrolled from the school.

Both players withdrew from Village Christian Academy and transferred back to Athens Drive. They claim that the promises of better exposure and opportunity never rang true.

“There was no better opportunity. I could’ve got the same opportunity at Athens. I would have rather stayed and finished my four years, would have had no problems,” said Cannon.