After two years with seven football champions in four classifications, the South Carolina High School League could streamline the process.
In an e-mail sent to the state’s athletic directors, principals and superintendents on Monday, SCHSL commissioner Jerome Singleton outlined a plan that would include five divisions for football for the 2014-16 realignment. Also included was a breakdown of suggested regions based on the 45-day average daily membership, but those could change since the 135-day ADM will be used for whatever realignment occurs.
Associate commissioner Dru Nix said that the “worksheet” was intended for consideration of school officials after conversations around the state suggested that the playoff structure had become “watered down” by too many champions. This was the first such proposed change during her tenure with the SCHSL.
“It has never really been, since I’ve been here, any talk of going to any more classes,” she said.
The concept outlined in the email will affect only football. But Nix added that school officials could decide to go a different route at the organization’s spring conference, scheduled for March 8 and 9.
“There’s some people that think that’s the way it should be, and some others that think all sports should be this way,” Nix said.
One individual is North Augusta head football coach and athletic director Dan Pippin. While he supported the idea of five classifications from initial conversations he’s had with other football coaches and even Singleton himself, he would rather the change cover all sports.
“I think if we’re going to do it for one, we should do it for all,” Pippin said.
He added that the main reason he’s heard for not making a universal change for all sports is based on travel. The email states that, for football, travel would only happen on Fridays, and even the longest distances would only have to be traveled every other year.
In most other sports, teams play home-and-home series against region foes, so those big trips would be made every season. In the suggested format, that wouldn’t be much of an issue for North Augusta, whose region opponents would include Aiken, Midland Valley, Orangeburg-Wilkinson and South Aiken.
For schools like Silver Bluff, travel could be a concern. If the SCHSL’s concept holds up, the Bulldogs would have a trip to Hardeeville on their region slate, a trek of greater than two hours.
Like Pippin, Silver Bluff head football coach and athletic director Al Lown said the plan was a “good first step.” But the effort to cut down on travel could cause problems for other scheduling. Teams would be in two regions, one for football and one for everything else, and Lown sees issues with that.
“So that could create some headaches as far as scheduling meetings and such,” Lown said.
As for the football aspect of the plan, Lown supports fewer classifications and likes the idea that only two teams for each region would make a 16-team postseason bracket at each level. Some third-place teams would make the Division 1 playoffs because that division has only six regions.
“I support the idea of going back and having less state championships in football,” Lown said. “I like only the top two teams in a region making the playoffs.”
Lown isn’t as supportive of another aspect of the concept. According to the email, each team would play 11 games in the regular season. While this would create another chance for each school to make more money at the gate, Lown’s concerned that with five-team regions, players would have an even greater chance of getting injured in one of seven non-region games that have little to no impact on postseason play.
“I think it’s skewed too much toward non-region games,” he said.
Both Nix and Pippin pointed out that the concept is still in its early phases and that the athletic directors will ultimately decide in March what direction the SCHSL will go in regard to realignment.
Pippin said that while he would vote against any plan that had a separate realignment for football than the other sports, either the current Region 5-AAAA or North Augusta High School itself would suggest a more suitable proposal.
“Our region (or NAHS) is going to propose that we split them like they are, just do it for all sports,” he said.
Jeremy Timmerman has a journalism degree from Mercer University and has been at the Aiken Standard since June 2010.
Proposed area regions
Division 4, Region 5
Aiken, Midland Valley, North Augusta, Orangeburg-Wilkinson, South Aiken
Division 3, Region 5
Brookland-Cayce, Gilbert, Pelion, Strom Thurmond, Swansea
Division 2, Region 2
Batesburg-Leesville, Eau Claire, Fox Creek, Keenan, Saluda
Division 2, Region 5
Barnwell, Edisto, Hardeeville-Ridgeland, Silver Bluff, Wade Hampton (H)
Division 1, Region 2
Blackville-Hilda, Hunter-Kinard-Tyler, North, Ridge Spring-Monetta, Wagener-Salley, Williston-Elko