South Carolina high school football teams will be allowed to hold up to seven spring practices in full pads beginning next month.
The S.C. High School League's executive committee voted 8-5 on Wednesday in support of a proposal to revamp the spring practice rules.
As in years past, teams will be allowed to hold up to 10 practices during either the last 30 days of school or the first two weeks after the school year ends.
But unlike previous seasons, players must practice in helmets with no shoulder pads for the first three practices where player-to-player contact is prohibited. After that, they can participate in full-contact, full-pad practices.
Previously, all full-pad, full-contact practices were prohibited during the spring.
"Everybody knows I don't think it's a good idea to go full pads in practice," said Jackie Hayes, Dillon High's football coach and an executive committee member who supported the new rules. "But at the same time, I received information from all these people across the state who are for it."
A number of the state's high school coaches were on hand for the executive committee's deliberations Wednesday.
"This is something that the football committee of all classifications had been working on for about two months," said Goose Creek coach Chuch Reedy, a former Clemson assistant and former head coach at Baylor, "to try and come up with a proposal that gave us an opportunity to teach the fundamentals of football, teach blocking and tackle in full gear."
Under last year's rules, Blythewood High committed a violation last May that landed it on probation. The SCHSL executive committee banned Blythewood from the Class AAA playoffs, preventing the Bengals from defending the state championship they won in 2006.
Since then, the executive committee sought input from the S.C. Football Coaches Association as it sought to revamp the guidelines.
Locally, at least one coach thought the changes were long overdue.
"Thank goodness it happened because now there is no gray area," said South Pointe coach Bobby Carroll. "Everybody now can play football.
"It's not some powderpuff game. If coaches don't want to practice in full pads, they don't have to, but if they do, they can. They don't have to worry about being punished."
"I think it makes it fair play for everybody," Carroll continued. "You worry in high school football about injuries. That's something we're going to have to take a look at with conditioning with these players. We don't need to lose a player in May because of full contact, but at the same time, it gives young kids a chance to hit people. You might find a diamond in the rough. Needless to say, we're happy about this."
Earlier this year, the league approved new rules that kept the number of practices at 10, but prohibited most players from wearing shoulder pads or engaging in player-to-player contact.
The only players allowed to use full pads were linemen, who could only engage if they were standing a yard apart.
But that was not good enough for a group of coaches who pushed for simpler, less restrictive rules.
"Give us a chance and we'll do good with it," Stratford High coach Ray Stackley, an executive committee member, said during Wednesday's deliberations. "I don't think there will be any violations."