CHARLESTON — At the legislative assembly meeting of the South Carolina Athletics Administrators Association, voters elected to allow state legislators and business officials to form a committee that will hear appeals of S.C. High School League decisions.
The initial proposal was made by Greenwood School District, and went through several amendments, with state representative and Dillon football coach Jackie Hayes providing a substantial portion of the language.
After several recesses and substantial wrangling over the wording, the Legislative Assembly approved 167-40 the amendment that will become Article 4, Section 6 of the SCHSL Constitution.
The amendment calls for the creation of an appeals panel that will have the final ruling “in any appeal brought against a decision of the association, body or entity,” making the League Commissioner and Executive Committee the first and second steps, respectively, in a three-step appeals process.
The prevailing ideal is that the most proper way to review the decisions of the SCHSL is to have a third party make the call.
“Now, there’s another group of people that can hear the problems,” said Irmo coach Bob Hanna, who was among the delegates at the meeting.
“We’re asking people to overturn rules that we’ve got put in place. And it has to be serious reasons that you’re going to ignore those rules, because we thought they were important enough to put in there.”
“The more chefs we have in there, the fairer the appeals process is going to be,” Hanna said. “It’s almost like you have another set of criteria to break a tie instead of a coin toss, and I’ve never liked coin tosses.
“I’d rather have people that are on the board that are going to take it seriously, and I feel like they have enough integrity to do the right thing.”
According to the amendment, the new panel will consist of 11 members — one appointed by the legislative delegates of each of the state’s seven congressional districts; three athletics directors or coaches to be appointed, respectively, by the governor, speaker of the house and president pro tempore of the senate; and one member of the business community to be appointed by the SC Chamber of Commerce.
Included in that amendment is a clause that prohibits the group from expelling or denying membership to institutions “based solely on their status as a home-schooled individual, private school or charter school.”
Earlier in the session, the membership had unanimously rejected a proposed amendment from Branchville High that would bar private schools from membership to the league on the grounds that they have inherent competitive advantages, such as their ability to provide scholarships to student athletes and to determine their classification of competition by controlling their enrollment. That amendment would have eliminated several private schools from the SCHSL ranks, including Bishop England, Christ Church and St. Joseph’s.
The two measures were among 11 proposed amendments addressed by the legislative body during the meeting. Also approved were two amendments to the section on transfer eligibility, one allowing eligibility to follow a student-athlete whose family is declared homeless and one allowing student-athletes transferring within districts that offer school choice to retain their eligibility with the approval of their superintendent and principal.
Another crucial vote was on the amendment to the section on ineligible participants, which formally established levels of violations and corresponding penalties, in an attempt to make the process more consistent.
“I think the membership really took it to heart and looked at what was in the best interest of the kids,” League Commissioner Jerome Singleton said.
The old rule stated that schools that use ineligible players must forfeit the game in which they participated. The new rule states that a school might have to forfeit a game in which the ineligible student participated.
There will now be four levels of violations: self-reported minor offense, non-reported minor violation, self-reported major violation and non-reported major violations. Punishments will be based on if the violation gave a school a competitive advantage.
The amendments regarding appeals and ineligible players were the result of the Goose Creek football team’s recent use of an ineligible player. The Gators were thrown out of this past season’s state playoffs and were denied a chance to win their second straight state championship. The controversies caused lawmakers to sponsor bills that could have ended the reign of the 99-year-old South Carolina High School League.
A Senate panel heard testimony Wednesday on a bill sponsored by Sen. Chip Campsen (R-Isle of Palms) that would place high school athletics under the state Dept. of Education, with a commissioner appointed by the state superintendent.
Information from The (Charleston) Post and Courier was used in this report