If the South Carolina High School League had been adamant in pursuing a rule violation to an absurd conclusion, Rock Hill's three high school soccer teams would have been barred from competing next season. Thankfully, that consequence was averted -- but barely.
The rule in question forbids private soccer teams not associated with the public school system from using school district facilities during the off-season. Discoveries Soccer, a league that plays year-round, had rented fields from the Rock Hill school district for its practices. Because some members of Northwestern, Rock Hill and South Pointe high schools play for Discoveries, they technically were breaking the rule.
The response of the High School League was Draconian. It ruled that all local players involved would be ineligible for the spring season, and all three high schools would be put on probation. That meant none would be allowed to compete in any tournaments, including preseason, in-season or playoffs.
We understand the rationale for the League's rule against using high school fields in the off-season. It is designed to discourage illegal team practices in the guise of club competitions.
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But players and coaches from other schools across the state are involved in Discoveries Soccer. They escaped discipline simply because they were not playing on their home turf.
It's not the private soccer leagues that are illegal; it's the fact that local players were practicing on local school fields.
The three schools immediately launched their own investigation into this incident and sent a report detailing their findings to the SCHSL. The schools then notified the league that they planned to appeal.
School officials argued that this was an issue between the district and Discoveries Soccer, and it would be unfair to punish the players and the coaches involved. In the end, the appeal prevailed -- but only by a vote of 8-7.
We think the schools were wise to accept responsibility and conduct their own investigation, which may have helped sway the decision in their favor. They also have instituted new guidelines to prevent this from happening again.
But while we are pleased that the appeal was upheld, we think the initial actions by the SCHSL were way out of proportion to the infraction. The league was willing to jeopardize three high school soccer programs and bar players from competing when clearly this was not an attempt by the schools to gain an unfair advantage.
The system has to have rules and a body to enforce them. But fairness and common sense should come into play as well.
In this situation, we think the SCHSL's priorities were misplaced.
High School League went overboard in its original punishment for soccer teams.
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