High School Sports

SCHSL takes no notice on ruling

COLUMBIA -- The Supreme Court ruling on a 10-year-long case between a Tennessee private school and that state's high school athletics association fell on deaf ears in South Carolina on Thursday.

South Carolina High School League director Jerome Singleton took no notice of the high court's decision that athletic associations may prohibit high school coaches from soliciting potential athletes without violating coaches' free speech rights.

The ruling is irrelevant here, Singleton said, because the SCHSL has no such rule preventing contact between coaches and prospective athletes.

In Tennessee, the state's Secondary School Athletic Association objected when a Brentwood Academy high school football coach sent letters to 12 eighth-graders, who had already signed enrollment contracts with the school, inviting them to participate in spring practice and signed, "Your Coach."

In South Carolina, Singleton said, "Our middle schools are part of the High School League, so all of those kids are eligible to become high school athletes." When and how high school coaches contact those athletes is "governed strictly by their (school) district," Singleton said.

"Our rules are relaxed to the point that if their district allows them to be contacted by all of the high school coaches and enroll in a different school, we don't interfere with that," said Singleton. The SCHSL also no longer prevents students from changing schools for athletic reasons, though it does discourage such moves, after the membership, consisting of more than 200 schools voted to repeal it.

In Richland 2, where students are free to attend any of the district's four high schools, coordinator of athletics Gary Fulmer said high school coaches are prohibited from recruiting middle schoolers for their teams, though that can be difficult to enforce.

"Our rule is that high school coaches are not to contact middle school kids other than the summer camps, or maybe inviting middle school teams to visit high school games," Fulmer said.

The Supreme Court ruling has no bearing on that policy.

A lower court's ruling, in favor of Brentwood Academy, was so broad that it would have prevented all scholastic athletics associations from abridging recruitment tactics, TSSAA lawyers argued in front of the Supreme Court.