Tonight, hundreds of Nation Ford High School students will put on gowns and tuxes, pay for expensive meals, climb into rented limousines and make their way to prom – one of the most highly anticipated events of the year – if not their entire lives.
But a few dozen Nation Ford students won’t be at that prom, not because they don’t want to go, but because an Anderson high school was unable to reschedule the time of a playoff game to accommodate the big dance.
“I just think this is awful,” said Jane Raniszewski, whose daughter, Jessie, is supposed to go to prom with a baseball player. “These kids planned this for months and months.”
Attending a prom in 2014 costs an average of $978 per household, according to the April issue of U.S. News and World Report.
The Nation Ford-T.L. Hanna game originally was scheduled to be played at 6 p.m. By Friday afternoon, the athletic directors and administrators of the two schools had agreed to move the game time to 4 p.m.
If the game is finished in two hours, by the time the boys get back from Anderson and change into their tuxes, they might be able to make it for an hour or two of the prom.
Under S.C. High School League rules, the home team gets to set the game time.
T.L. Hanna Principal Sheila Hilton said her school had been working hard all day Friday to find a way to change the time. Scheduling the game on Friday was not an option, she said, because the players would not have had enough time to rest from their Thursday game.
Several Nation Ford parents said that argument didn’t hold up, because baseball teams play games on consecutive days all the time.
Earlier in the season, T.L. Hanna’s schedule included three sets of back-to-back games and two tournaments.
“If they’ve got the ability to change the date and to work with us, they should have,” said Fort Mill school board chairman Patrick White. “It’s not very fair on their part.”
While many of the players expressed their frustration through social media, even more upset were the girls whose dates play on the team.
Sophomore Ashton Irvin is supposed to go to the prom with junior baseball player Dalton Helms. She has a $400 dress sitting in her closet, to say nothing of the hair and nail appointment, dinner plans, flowers and all the other elements that go into a prom night.
“I would want to ask them why they couldn’t move the game any earlier, like softball did?” said Irvin, who – as a sophomore – can’t attend the prom unless her date makes it back in time.
Fort Mill High School agreed to change its softball playoff game against Nation Ford, originally scheduled for today, to Friday night to avoid the scheduling conflict with Nation Ford’s prom, Fort Mill High Principal Dee Christopher said.
Fort Mill also rescheduled its baseball game against Blythewood from today to Friday, Christopher said, so Blythewood’s players could make it to their prom.
Because the game times are worked out between the two schools, the S.C. High School League hadn’t heard anything from either school as of Friday afternoon.
In situations like this, White said, league officials should intervene.
“If someone is being unreasonable,” he said, High School League Commissioner “Jerome Singleton and that group over there ought to step in and do what’s in the best interest of the kids.”
White said his district would never do something like this to another high school. He and several parents questioned the message this was sending to the players.
Schools should be willing to accommodate each other so students can celebrate once-in-a-lifetime events, said parent Tricia Witherspoon, whose daughter, Morgan, is going to prom with a baseball player.
“These are supposed to be the best days of their lives,” she said. “We shouldn’t be making these boys make this decision.”
At practice Friday, Nation Ford baseball coach Mike Matkovitch told his players it was their choice to go to the game or stay in Fort Mill and honor their commitments to their dates and their families.
He told them he’d respect whatever they chose to do.
By the end of practice, all but seven boys had decided to go to the game, hoping to make it back for at least some of the dance.