The South Carolina High School League's appellate panel couldn't reach a decision Wednesday morning after meeting for more than two hours to discuss Lexington County's appeal for its plan to rearrange the high school sports calendar.
Citing a lack of information leading up to the meeting, held a week after the SCHSL's executive committee approved the league's plan while voting down proposals by Lexington and Greenville counties, the appellate panel tabled the vote – the group will meet again Aug. 10 at 11 a.m. to discuss it again.
Therefore, the SCHSL's plan – with practices beginning Aug. 17 – remains intact for now.
"The decision that the appellate panel made to table it – again, our member schools want to know what to expect, so until we get something new I say let's go with what we have," said SCHSL commissioner Jerome Singleton. "Let's take the dates that we have in place. If there's a reason to adjust it, let's not let it be because we're waiting on another plan or to see if another plan is approved or not. If there are reasons to adjust that schedule, then let's make those adjustments for those reasons because we don't know what the final decision is gonna be."
The Lexington County plan, voted down 16-1 last week, called for lower-risk sports like baseball and softball to move to the front of the prep sports calendar. The SCHSL's plan, approved 14-2, includes an abbreviated fall sports season that starts later but appeals to Singleton because of its flexibility in case there's another surge in COVID-19 cases or something like a hurricane or flooding further derails another fall season.
The SCHSL's executive committee will meet again Aug. 4 and 5, after which the appellate panel will review any changes to the league's plan in addition to voting on the Lexington appeal. Of course, the landscape may be completely different even by then – summer strength and conditioning is delayed or still hasn't started in some parts of the state.
"We truly have no answers at this point," Singleton said. "If they want to know the answer between the two plans, all I can do is tell you to go with what we have. But I understand in the back of your mind that you may say, 'Well, we can, but what about? What about the what-ifs?' I count those as distractions.
"I think there's too many opportunities for us to figure out better ways to address things by dealing with the things that we can control than it is to try to deal with the what-ifs and try to make it a guessing game. We're already uncertain about what we're going to do, anyway. Let's not add to that with another distraction."
Singleton said he'd rather make small movements – like pushing back the projected start date by a week – rather than having to start over completely. Aug. 17 and Sept. 11 – the currently-scheduled first Friday of high school football – are growing nearer and nearer, but Singleton is still erring on the side of patience and flexibility.
"I think those dates are far out enough that it tells me that we've got time to see if we need to move it," he said. "Again, I won't look that far. We've got time to look that far because situations and things continue to change. That's what my gut tells me. Let's not rush into a poor decision."
The appellate panel ultimately has the final say in the matter, and on many occasions Wednesday members meandered from addressing Lexington's appeal to debating the merits of the SCHSL's already-approved plan.
Several different state coaches associations, including softball, volleyball, baseball, track and field and cross country, posted on social media before the meeting that they did not support the Lexington plan and the restructuring of the athletic calendar.
Of course, none of this may matter if the coronavirus once again shuts down schools – or keeps them from even reopening.
"The more we push change, owning this period for ourselves and policing each other – policing is a harsh word – encouraging each other to follow some safe guidelines that can allow us to move forward, if not just for sports maybe just in life as we try to move forward as we deal with this thing," Singleton said.
SCISA updates fall sports dates
The South Carolina Independent School Association released updated fall sports dates Wednesday.
July 24-Aug. 2 is a dead period of no strength training and conditioning, followed by a first day of practice on Aug. 3 – football will be in a helmets-only phase, then will be allowed shoulder pads a week later.
Football will be in full pads Aug. 17, with first contests allowed for cross country, swimming, golf, tennis and volleyball. The football season opener is planned for Aug. 28.