Georgia loses recruit due to immigration status

Phone messages for Bradwell Institute football coach Jim Walsh have been pouring in from schools calling to check about offensive lineman Chester Brown.

Brown hoped to sign a letter of intent a week from today to play college ball at Georgia, but an immigration-related issue changed that, Bradwell Institute principal Scott Carrier said Wednesday.

Brown’s parents are from Samoa and the family moved from Long Beach, Calif. to Hinesville, where he began high school in 2008.

“There’s a lot of uncertainty in the air,” Walsh said.

Carrier could not disclose specific details about Brown and Georgia due to student confidentiality, he said. but school officials learned at the end of last week that Brown would not be able to get into Georgia.

Brown said Monday night that he would not be going to UGA “because of a personal family reason,” but did not want to disclose the reason behind that.

Students who can’t prove they’re legal U.S. residents can’t enroll at the University of Georgia and four other state public colleges under policies adopted by the state board of regents in October 2010.

“Unfortunately that’s something I can’t discuss,” Carrier said when asked about where Brown was born.

The new policy went into effect in the fall after a Kennesaw State University student, Jessica Colotl, was arrested in March 2010 following a traffic stop. She was slated for deportation, but immigration authorities agreed to hold off for a year to allow her to complete classes at Kennesaw State.

The regents policy now prohibits any public college or university from allowing illegal immigrants to enroll if the school had turned down any academically qualified applicants for admission during the two most recent academic years. It also requires admissions officials to verify applicants’ residence status.

The Brown family moved to the U.S. from Samoa in the mid-1990s.

Violence in Long Beach, Calif., prompted the family to move in 2004 to Hinesville, where Chester’s uncle worked in the military.

“When Chester was there growing up, a lot of kids that were Samoans and his age were shot and killed,” his father Siliga told DawgPost.com in his native tongue while Chester translated. “I didn’t want that to happen to my kids. I wanted them away from that fast life.”

The 6-foot-5, 323-pound Brown, a three-star recruit, committed to Georgia on July 15 during its “Dawg Night” football camp.

“It’s a situation that just came up,” Walsh said. “There’s a lot of people trying to help us resolve it.”

Walsh and Georgia athletic director Greg McGarity declined to comment about Brown’s case citing federal privacy laws.

Central Florida, Tulane and Syracuse have shown interest in Brown. Carrier said it’s early in the process of finding another school.

“It’s a little bit stressful because I felt like Georgia was my home,” Brown said. “Things didn’t work out.”

Carrier said the school would do what it can to help Brown be able to play at another school.

“He’s very talented so it’s our goal to help him to achieve that,” Carrier said. “We’re doing everything we can from our end.”