SC High School League passes updated schedule for fall sports

By Bru Nimmons

Staff Reporter

COUNTY — With less than a month until fall sports were set to begin, the South Carolina High School League announced widespread changes to the fall sports calendar on Wednesday in order to ensure that high school sports are played in South Carolina this fall.

The state’s governing body for high school athletics held an executive session on Wednesday in the hopes to come out with some clarity regarding fall athletics. After a nearly two-hour meeting with multiple proposals, the league approved an altered schedule by a 14-2 vote with continued flexibility due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

The proposal, presented by league commissioner Jerome Singleton, would see fall practice begin on Aug. 17 and allow teams up to four weeks to prepare for game action before a shortened regular season is held.

The league has also built in enough flexibility that the start of the season could be pushed as far back as Oct. 2 and still be completed under the current plan.

“This plan provides flexibility. We can move everything back,” Singleton said during Wednesday’s executive committee meeting. “The main thing is to put something in with some flexibility so that we can make adjustments as we go along.”

In football, teams are set to begin a seven-game regular season on Sept. 11, kicking off the season against region opponents in order to get important postseason seeding games in. Following the regular season, playoffs are scheduled to begin on Oct. 30, with a four-round playoff schedule instead of the usual five-round structure.

The SCHSL plans to continue to monitor the effects of COVID-19 and will adjust the start of the season one week at a time if it is deemed to be a severe risk.

“If time challenges us, then we can still do it with three rounds and still create an opportunity where you can qualify through the region,” Singleton said.

Like football, other fall sports such as girls’ tennis and volleyball would begin their season against region foes in order to obtain proper playoff seeding, while girls’ golf, cross-country and competitive cheer will have qualifier events to determine who advances to the state finals.

“I’m excited to have a plan,” Pickens High School head football coach and athletic director Chad Smith said. “We have been waiting on them to make a decision, so I’m thankful to have some idea of what to do moving forward.”

The approved plan wasn’t the only plan presented at the meeting, as representatives from Lexington High School presented an idea to move moderate- to low-risk sports to fall, while having moderate- to high-risk sports in the spring, including a January start date for football season that was ultimately not passed by the league.

“I loved the Lexington plan,” Smith said. “I felt it gave everyone the best shot to play, but I can disagree civilly.”

Smith’s biggest concern with the league plan is preparation and safety for his players entering fall camp. With the league still in phase one of its return to team sports, teams are going to see a drastic change from the socially distant guidelines set up now compared to the grueling, physical nature of a full-force football practice, which is supposed to begin in less than a month.

“I’ve been pleased with the work we’ve been putting in this summer, and I can happily report we haven’t had a (COVID-19) case football-wise all summer,” Smith said. “Even with everything we’ve worked toward, it will be a big adjustment.”