High School Sports

SCHSL to move to five classifications in 2016

Starting in 2016, the South Carolina High School League will have five classifications instead of the current four.

The resolution passed 10-5 at Tuesday’s day-long meeting of the SCHSL’s Executive Committee in Columbia. A six-classification proposal was also tabled, but committee members voted it down by a narrow 8-7 margin.

“It is the executive committee’s role to define the classifications the number of classifications that we will compete in in the state, so that was the big decision today,” said Fort Mill principal Dee Christopher, the vice president of the committee, which also includes Rock Hill principal Ozzie Ahl. “The interesting thing was that all four classifications’ straw polls in March came back, ‘we want to do something different,’ whether it was a 5A or 6A. For every classification, change was important.”

South Carolina currently awards four state championships in most sports. Football, with split 1A, 2A and 4A divisions, is an exception in awarding seven state titles. That would change to five with the new system. Christopher said the goal of a five-classification system would be to group schools with as close enrollment numbers as possible. Still, the Executive Committee won’t be able to please every school.

“And we’re not going to,” said Christopher. “There’s a lot to consider. You’re trying to be fair to every single school, regardless if they’re a traditional public school, a charter school or a private school. That’s the overwhelming feel of the committee, is to be fair to every school.”

Details on which schools would join which classification and region have yet to be ironed out. SCHSL staff still need updated school enrollment numbers from the state’s education department. The SCHSL’s Jerome Singleton told Florence Morning News reporter Lou Bezjak that a rough draft would go to schools by August and that a plan would be finalized in September.

Once the classifications are sorted out, the Executive Committee will revisit a controversial topic it punted down the road on Tuesday, the bumping up one classification of private schools.

Christ Church, Bishop England and other private schools currently stationed in 1A and 2A have dominated their competition in almost all sports, prompting public schools to seek out ways to even the playing field. A popular suggestion was to move private schools up one classification due to their unlimited student catchment areas. But Christopher said the committee decided to wait on that issue due to the shift to five classifications.

“We feel like we need to flesh this out,” he said. “When that amendment was done, it was done for four classifications. I believe the intent was to do it if we went to a five or six-classification too. I think the committee felt like we need to get through a five-classification and be able to hash that out at another round.”

Larger schools like Christopher’s Fort Mill aren’t as effected by the private school matter. But local schools like Great Falls and Lewisville have seen multiple sports teams’ seasons end at the hands of Christ Church or St. Joseph’s, a pair of private schools from Greenville that compete in 1A.

That doesn’t mean Christopher wasn’t paying attention while the matter was discussed Tuesday. When the committee reconvenes in August, he’ll be the president of a group with a big decision on its plate.

Bret McCormick •  803-329-4032; Twitter: @BretJust1T

Key decisions from Tuesday’s SCHSL Executive Committee meeting

▪ SCHSL will shift from four to five classifications starting in the fall of 2016. The high school league will determine the student enrollment number cut-offs by this fall.

▪ A proposal to bump private schools up one classification was set aside. This was the most controversial issue the Executive Committee considered on Tuesday. It will be revisited at some point in the future.

▪ Football’s eight-quarter rule, which allowed players to compete in one sub-varsity (JV) and one varsity contest per week, not exceeding eight total quarters, was abolished. Student-athletes will be limited to one game per week. One possible drawback is for 1A schools, which could lose JV programs because of varsity call-ups.

▪ A proposal - well supported by wrestling coaches statewide - to increase individual wrestling state tournament brackets from eight to 12 wrestlers, was denied.

▪ One week was added to the lacrosse season to help reschedule rained-out games.

▪ The start of middle school volleyball season was moved up a day.