The House approved an amended measure on Tuesday allowing the High School League to continue overseeing middle and high school sports in South Carolina.
Legislators voted 105-1 to put into state law changes the league made to its own rules at its convention in Charleston earlier this month. It appears the 99-year-old league saved itself from extinction.
The league’s 207 member schools heard legislators’ warning, said Rep. Mike Anthony, D-Union. The retired football coach and athletic director traveled to Charleston to stress to his former colleagues the need to make changes or risk more drastic ones.
“It’s been a wake-up call for coaches, athletic directors and principals,” he said, noting nearly 500 people attended the meeting.
The measure initially eliminated the independent, dues-paying organization and transferred its duties to the state Education Department, under an athletic commissioner appointed by the state superintendent.
Legislators have long complained about the league and their inability to have any say over decisions involving constituents. But league decisions that knocked defending state football champions Goose Creek out of the playoffs last November prompted bills to get rid of it.
The league’s executive committee twice ruled Goose Creek High School had to forfeit all 10 games in which an ineligible player dressed to play. The second decision followed a circuit court judge ordering the league to reconsider. The decisions involved a special education student in his fifth year of high school.
Conway High lost 47-7 to Goose Creek in the first round of the Class AAAA playoffs before the ruling came down, leaving Conway out, then in, and then out again as court proceedings took place that week.
Anthony said the league’s staff can only enforce the competition rules set by the group’s members.
Rule changes they approved that would become state law include a range of sanctions and an appeals board appointed by legislators. The board would be a third step for principals, parents and coaches who are unsatisfied with decisions made by the league’s commissioner and executive committee. The appellate board’s seven members would be appointed from geographic regions, to ensure all areas are represented.
Rep. Bill Crosby said he still thinks the league needs to go. But his attempt to again give its responsibilities to the education superintendent failed 104-5.
“I don’t think all the problems are worked out,” said Crosby, R-North Charleston.
The House bill requires another vote before heading to the Senate, which also is considering an elimination bill. That measure is up later this week in a Senate panel, which had postponed a vote until after the league’s convention.