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January 25, 2012

Immigration issue costs recruit spot at Georgia

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Tom Bergeron is the Senior Editor for RivalsHigh.com. Send ideas, questions or comments to TBergero@Yahoo-Inc.com and follow on Twitter.

Chester Brown's love of the University of Georgia football program has been apparent since last July, when he verbally committed to the school.

Shortly thereafter, the massive offensive lineman from Hinesville (Ga.) Bradwell Institute, had the date of his commitment - July 15, 2011 - tattooed onto his arm.

Last night, the 6-foot-5, 340-pound senior reiterated his love for the program - while he reluctantly announced he will not be attending as the result of a controversial immigration policy at the university.

Brown, the son of Samoan immigrants, appears to be caught up in a new Georgia Board of Regents Policy that states an undocumented student cannot be admitted to the school over a legal resident should there be a space limitation.

"Due to personal reasons that I just don't feel like putting out there, I have to part ways with UGA," Brown said in a release Monday night available on UGASports.com, the leading site for Georgia sports information.

"Words cannot explain how much love I have for Georgia, but I want everyone to know that this is for personal reasons."

Brown would not say whether the policy forced him to make the decision, but the Atlanta Journal Constitution, cited multiple sources, indicated it was.

Brown said simply it was his decision - and a painful one at that.

"It was my decision to make, and I had to do it," said Brown. "When I told the coaches they just were surprised, but they told to me do what I have to do. I don't want anyone to think that we went out on bad terms, and I love UGA, but I had to make this decision."

Brown's status is unclear. His parents, who immigrated to the country decades ago, said he was born in the United States. But he apparently does not have the proper documentation.

Scott Carrier, the principal at Bradwell Institute, told the AJC as much.

"Some things slipped through the cracks that could have prevented this had they been handled earlier," Carrier said.

The Board of Regents rule came about following an incident involving Jessica Colotl, a Kennesaw State student who sparked a national immigration debate after she was found to be in the country illegally following a traffic stop in May of 2010. She was attending the school and paying in-state tuition at the time.

Colotl was jailed and nearly deported back to Mexico but was eventually allowed to return to school; she graduated last spring.

After the incident, the Georgia Board of Regents issued the following policy:

"A person who is not lawfully present in the United States shall not be eligible for admission to any University System institution which, for the two most recent academic years, did not admit all academically qualified applicants (except for cases in which applicants were rejected for non-academic reasons)."

Brown's family and the school will continue to work in hopes of allowing him to take the Georgia scholarship offer, according to the AJC story.

In the meantime, Brown will re-open his recruitment.

"I want to open up and I have some great prospects with schools like UCF, Tulane, Syracuse, and big colleges like that," he said in the statement. "Miami and those other colleges are supposed to be coming by. My coaches also say TCU is interested."

Rivals.com national football analyst Mike Farrell says Brown has the potential to make an impact wherever he goes - but that he is still a work in progress.

"Brown is new to football but he has some upside and his ceiling is high," Farrell said. "He's especially effective as a run blocker and he showed excellent progress in the short time he's been playing football.

"He's a bit of a project and wasn't going to be an instant impact guy so I don't see this hurting Georgia's class aside from leaving them a little short on offensive line numbers, but I know the staff was excited about his potential and there was some thought that he could be a very good guard for them down the line."

Whether it's at Georgia or somewhere else remains to be seen.

RELATED: Bradwell Institute gets reprieve as Camden County is set to change Regions

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