S.C. High School League considers sanctioning lacrosse

COLUMBIA -- With 18 public high schools fielding boys and girls teams, lacrosse is on the cusp of being sanctioned as a S.C. High School League.

"By constitution, we can sanction a sport as soon as there are enough teams to field a championship. But it's not as simple as just ordering another trophy," league commissioner Jerome Singleton said Friday after an information-gathering meeting with S.C. Lacrosse League commissioners Rich Thomas and Harold Ness.

The SCLL is the governing body of the 18 high school lacrosse teams in the state.

There's still work to be done before the sport can become sanctioned. The devil is in the details, and Singleton spent Friday exorcising what he could in a meeting with Thomas and Ness.

Among the items the high school league has to consider: when teams would play, organizing schedules and determining a playoff system.

"I wasn't trying to critique the way they are doing things, I just don't want to have to reinvent the wheel," Singleton said. Though Thomas' league, formed in 2002 to organize and promote lacrosse at the high school level, will have no say-so in the High School League's governance of the sport, knowing how the SCLL operates will be invaluable.

The commissioners discussed the availability, training, booking and compensation of officials statewide, the organization of schedules and management of rankings and playoffs.

"In any area where a sport is growing, there is some difficulty finding officials, but we have so far been blessed to have several people in different parts of the state who have experience with the sport and even experience officiating lacrosse," Thomas said.

He said with two officials per game, the SCLL had no problems covering its schedule of games, and that interest in officiating the sport would grow along with participation.

Singleton found Thomas' information helpful, but other issues remain.

The Lacrosse League currently competes in the spring, but Singleton said SCHSL would have to determine which season is most feasible for competition.

The teams are also scattered, with Fort Mill being in the Herald area, eight clustered in the Greenville area, four -- A.C. Flora, Camden Military, Blythewood and Ridge View -- in the Midlands and a few in the Lowcountry, posing a potential scheduling dilemma. And several of the teams currently compete against non-member schools in the regular season and in the playoffs. Playing against non-member schools in the playoffs isn't allowed by the high school league.

Thomas offered optimism.

"If the High School League were to embrace lacrosse, I think there are a lot of teams that pop up where now they are just waiting to see what happens," he said.

Singleton said he plans to consult with officials from North Carolina and Florida high school sports organizations, where lacrosse is a sanctioned sport.

"We will help in whatever way we can, because it is eventually going to be a great thing for kids in South Carolina," Thomas said. "It felt like it was a good first step, and it feels like we're a bit closer to being an official interscholastic sport."

The sport has already caught on collegiately in the state. Limestone, Furman and Converse field teams. USC will field a women's team as early as 2010.

But Singleton said he can't determine how soon lacrosse could receive sanctioning.

"I can't timeline it," Singleton said. "When the committee directs us to have a championship, we will have to move with all deliberate speed. And then they will expect me to have all the answers. Right now, I don't have many."

Singleton will present the answers he does have to the executive committee at its August meeting.