Exclusive: Coach ousted amid Village Academy football recruiting scandal denies wrongdoing

FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. (WTVD) -- A high school coach who was let go amid an investigation into alleged recruiting violations is speaking exclusively with ABC11.

Former Village Christian Academy high school football head coach Emerson Martin told ABC11 he did nothing wrong.

The allegations stem from claims that Martin said were made by the family of former Athens Drive High School player Isaiah Henderson. The Henderson's reached out to ABC11 and said that Martin and his coaching staff offered free tuition if their son would transfer from the Raleigh high school to Village Christian.

ABC11 asked Martin if he ever made such promises to Henderson or other players.

"The promise that we made to him was that we would do everything in our power to keep them in school from the time we were made aware of what was going on," Martin replied. "But from the beginning of the season, there were no promises made."

Martin told ABC11 that another coach, Keith McCrimmon, promised Henderson free tuition. When the help didn't come, payments fell behind.

In text messages provided to ABC11, Martin's wife questioned Henderson's mother about the outstanding balance.

"There was no promise to pay, there was no promise to cover tuition or that it would be free. Because if so, why am I initiating a conversation with you in October?" Martin's wife, Keisha, explained.

At one point in the message thread, Henderson's mom threatens to pull her son out of VCA, and that's when Martin said he stepped up.

"I said, you know what? We'll work with our donors, nonprofits, we'll work with our parents, we'll work with the administration to do everything we can to make sure Isaiah is able to stay in school and finish," Keisha said.

The NCISAA found Monday that players at VCA were unethically recruited and offered impermissible benefits, but Martin said that before he raised a dollar, he raised a question -- going to VCA leaders for the go-ahead.

"They basically said we were not in violation because we looked at it because we tried to figure out how to help those kids stay in school," Martin said.

VCA has been placed on probation for the next school year. It also forfeited last year's wins, including the team's 2018 state championship.

"They took one person and they're trying to blame one person so that the school comes out clean," Martin said.

More than anyone, Martin said, this hurts the children.

Attempts to contact McCrimmon were unsuccessful.

The Henderson family did not return our phone calls for this report.
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