High School Football

‘It’s just got to stop’: Midlands coaches weigh in on recruiting, Blythewood case

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Blythewood coach Jason Seidel discusses expectations and challenges from a year ago as he joined the Bengals
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Blythewood coach Jason Seidel discusses expectations and challenges from a year ago as he joined the Bengals

Most high school football coaches around the Midlands are getting ready for their season-opening games this week. The coaches also are keeping an eye on the case involving Blythewood coach Jason Seidel.

The second-year Bengals coach is being punished for what Richland School District Two called “violations of the district’s position on recruiting.” The district hasn’t said what the punishment is or whether it involves Seidel missing any games.

South Carolina High School League commissioner Jerome Singleton said this week he was satisfied with Richland Two’s punishment in the situation, although he didn’t say what it was.

Rumors of high school coaches trying to lure players to their schools to gain a competitive advantage are not uncommon, but Seidel’s case is unique because evidence presented against the coach showed he broke the rules and tried to cover up his behavior. The findings raise questions about how rules should be enforced for coaches who are leaders in their community, faces of their schools and in a position of public trust with teenagers.

“It’s just got to stop,” Spring Valley coach Robin Bacon said of the practice of recruiting. “This (case) forces district and SCHSL to have some teeth in policy. Until they do it the right way, it will continue to go on. The coaches, in my opinion, they don’t fear any harm coming on them. We feel like we are being punished because we are doing things the right way.”

Seidel attempted to persuade students from other schools in the district to transfer to Blythewood and play football for the Bengals, a Richland Two investigation showed. In January, according to a district statement, Ridge View High School’s principal Brenda Mack-Foxworth reported to Richland Two officials the possible recruitment of three current Ridge View football players by Seidel and a Blythewood parent.

Blythewood opens up the season Friday against Ridge View.

Seidel and Blythewood principal Matthew Sherman did not respond to The State’s request seeking comment. Bengals athletics director Barry Mizzell, when contacted by The State, referred all questions to the school district.

The State has asked the district to provide a copy of Seidel’s personnel file and any disciplinary records against him — all of which are public records.

Most of the high school coaches contacted by The State think a single or multi-game suspension is the proper punishment in this situation.

A.C. Flora coach Dustin Curtis, who previously coached in Richland Two at Westwood, didn’t want to comment on a possible punishment, but did feel stricter transfer rules might curb this type of behavior in the future. He mentioned the rule Rock Hill School District Three put into place in 2017. That rule says student-athletes transferring in the district for athletic purposes must have to sit out 365 days unless. (They can appeal.)

Also in Rock Hill’s rule, high school coaches are not allowed to talk with middle school athletes or address middle school teams.

Getting rid of or tweaking Richland Two’s School of Choice program also might deter coaches trying to recruit other players, Curtis said.

According to the district’s website, “Richland School District Two students are assigned to schools based on their residential address, they may apply to a magnet school or another school within the district through the Choice program. This program offers parents and students residing in Richland District Two the opportunity to request permission to attend a school other than their residentially assigned school.”

“It would be concrete then,” Curtis said. “If you leave one school to another, you have to sit. There would be no point in recruiting then.”

The practice of recruiting “for athletic purposes is a serious ethical violation” and against the rules, according to Richland Two’s athletics manual and is against Section 15 in the South Carolina High School League by-laws. No possible punishments for recruiting violations are mentioned in the SCHSL by-laws.

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