The Executive Committee of the South Carolina High School League has voted to uphold the probations levied against Camden and Dreher in connection with an on-field fight that occurred after the teams’ Oct. 17 game in Camden.
Camden’s appeal was denied 10-4; Dreher’s by a 9-4 vote.
“I don’t know whether they got it right, but I know they did what the (League’s) Constitution said, they upheld the Constitution,” League commissioner Jerome Singleton said. “So if the constitution is right, then yes, they did it right.”
During their appeals, administrators from both schools pointed out the region game, which Camden won 39-30, was physical and hotly-contested, and asserted that tighter officiating during the game could have changed the tone and the course of the night. But both coach Jimmy Neal of Camden and Dreher coach Treigh Sullivan said they did not consider forgoing the customary post-game handshake between teams.
“Every game for us is highly contested,” Sullivan said.
“The last two games, against Richland Northeast and Lower Richland, those games came down to the last play. We played this game down to the last play,” he said. “There was no unsportsman-likes called during the game, we don’t have a history of this and I don’t think Camden did, so I didn’t think anything of it.”
On a three-minute video clip of the incident, assistant commissioner Skip Lax pointed out that the initial confrontation devolved into three separate altercations, with players moving into and away from the fray continuously. From the video, it was hard to determine the intentions of many of the players in the scrums.
Camden principal Dan Matthews said, “Most of them, in my opinion, were trying to get their other teammates out.”
One player from each team was identified as having hit or pushed a coach or administrator from an opposing team, an offense that Lax said Camden Police Department informed him would be considered third-degree assault. Lax said according to the Rules and Regulations in the League handbook, those players were subject to a minimum suspension of two-games and a maximum of one-year suspension. The rule also states that when a player is subject to the maximum penalty, the team must be placed on immediate probation. “We do believe that within that requirement, there is still room for a probation that is less restrictive, and we believe in Camden’s case that’s very appropriate if you look at a progressive discipline approach because of Camden’s longstanding, excellent record of sportsmanship and, frankly, if you look at the video, because Camden did not instigate this situation,” Kershaw County schools superintendent Frank Morgan said after the hearing.
Lax said the League determined that the harsher penalty was also warranted based on the severity of the entire incident. Of the 61 players on the Camden roster, 11 were penalized by the League, the school and Kershaw County School District. Nine of Dreher’s 41 players have been penalized by the League, school and Richland School District 1.
League Commissioner Jerome Singleton said that that clusters of players and poor visibilities of jersey numbers meant that it was nearly impossible to be certain that all involved players have been penalized.
Camden officials argued that in light of the fact that its staff acted quickly to break up the fracas, the team should be granted leniency. They further asserted that the Constitution did allow for a lesser probation—allowing for postseason competition, but disallowing preseason competition in the next year.Dreher principal Jeanne Stiglbauer pointed out that several players from both teams stood back from the altercation, and that at least one Blue Devil, after being hit simply walked away. She asked the committee to have mercy on those players in rescinding the probation in order to allow them to a chance at postseason play.
“By placing both schools on probation, 80 players who were not guilty of fighting are being penalized. This is not serving their needs,” Dreher athletics director Mike DuBard argued. “I do not believe that the actions of one player should condemn 40 others.”
“It’s unfortunate, but team sports is team sports. And as you enjoy the privileges that come along with being a part of a team—whether you played or not, if you’re a part of that team and a few people make great things occur, you get to enjoy that. It’s hard to divorce yourself from that when bad things happen,” Singleton said.
The decision means the Bulldogs and Blue Devils, both 3-2 in Region 5-3A and therefore eligible for the playoffs, are barred from postseason competition. The programs have 48 hours to request a second and final appeal, which would be heard by the Appellate Panel established in a 2013 constitutional amendment.
KCSD officials have decided to request that appeal. Dreher’s representatives declined to comment after the hearing.
Singleton said an Appellate Panel hearing is tentatively scheduled for the morning of Nov. 3.
The final regular season games are tonight, Oct. 31. Playoff brackets will be set after those games, Singleton said, based on Camden and Dreher’s status as ineligible. Should one or either team be reinstated, the brackets would have to be adjusted on Monday.