HIGH SCHOOLS

SCHSL takes up realignment plan

Schools would be divided into five classes for football

Special to The StateJanuary 23, 2013 

  • DIVISION 5 REGION 4 Blythewood Clover Fort Mill Rock Hill Ridge View REGION 5 Dutch Fork Irmo Lexington River Bluff White Knoll REGION 6 Carolina Forest Lugoff-Elgin South Florence Spring Valley West Florence DIVISION 4 REGION 4 A.C. Flora Airport Chapin Dreher Lower Richland REGION 6 Hartsville Lakewood Marlboro County Richland Northeast Wilson DIVISION 3 REGION 4 Broome Clinton Columbia Fairfield Central Mid Carolina Newberry REGION 5 Brookland-Cayce Gilbert Pelion Strom Thurmond Swansea REGION 6 Camden Crestwood Darlington Lake Marion Manning DIVISION 2 REGION 2 Batesburg-Leesville Eau Claire Fox Creek Keenan Saluda DIVISION 1 REGION 3 C.A. Johnson Great Falls Lamar Lewisville McBee Timmonsville

Many high school athletics directors and football coaches across the state believe the current system of crowning seven state champions in football cheapens the accomplishment.

The South Carolina High School League’s Executive Committee formulated a plan in December that proposes a new five-class system that would have 40 teams in each classification for football only. The remaining sports would remain in the current four-class system and award four state championships while football would award five.

That proposal was on the docket to be voted on during a SCHSL Executive Committee meeting Tuesday but the vote was delayed when a group that included Gilbert football coach and athletics director Barry Harley and Conway’s Chuck Jordan presented a new proposal that they wanted to look at before the realignment for the 2014-2016 athletics seasons could take shape.

Under the newest proposal, all sports would move into a three-class system. Each class would have 68 teams in each classification and would split into 34-team divisions for playoff purposes. That would mean each sport would end up with six state champions.

“What we’re honestly trying to do is to make sure everybody is treated equally,” Harley said. “We wanted to make sure the numbers worked out and were more equitable. We also wanted to try and reduce travel. If we can do that, we’re all for it. Everybody is trying to do what’s best and I think things are moving in the right direction.”

With the new proposal on the table, the vote on how to proceed was delayed until the next scheduled meeting later in the school year.

The previous proposal presented by the SCHSL would be the most likely to pass based on conversations with several area coaches. The three-class system is a radical change and that seldom gains enough support to pass in a vote.

It’s not a certainty that any change will be made and the current system could stay in place for 2014-16 and would be discussed again in two years when realignment happens again.

The biggest drawback for the five-class system is it relates to football only. Many feel if the best move is to go with a five-class system, then it should be in all sports.

“At the end of the day, you have five champions — one in each classification — and it’s not watered down,” Lexington football coach and athletics director Scott Earley said. “That, to me, would be what is best for athletics across to the state. To me, football in no different than any other sport. The best thing for everybody is to say we have five classes. Make it the same across the board.”

Currently, Class 4A, 2A and A split into two divisions in football and award state titles in each. Class 3A crowns one champion.

Class 4A plays 11 regular-season games while the other classifications play 10.

The five-class proposal would include the following:

• Eleven-game regular seasons for all 200 teams

• Sixteen-team brackets for playoffs

• It would do away with the current point system. Region champions and runners-up would advance to the playoffs. The exception would be Class A, where selected third-place teams would advance.

• It will ensure that all playoff teams will have a winning region record.

One state champion crowned in each division.

Phone calls placed to South Carolina High School League were not returned. The next move is up the Executive Committee, which will set the agenda for the March meetings.

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