The S.C. High School League held what could best be described as a cautionary media teleconference on Thursday. The rules didn’t change, but the ruling body of high school sports put some teeth in the regulations already in place.
No Phase 2 of resumption for now, kids. Too dangerous.
COVID-19 cases are proliferating in the state, which reported 1,106 new cases on Thursday. Laurens County’s total of 36 was a new high. In the past two days, 2,397 people have been infected. The state’s totals are 28,948 cases and 691 deaths.
Though no specific numbers were reported, commissioner Jerome Singleton said SCHSL officials are aware of some athletes around the state affected by the virus since highly restricted workouts were approved early this month.
Violators of distancing requirements will be punished, Singleton announced.
“Something has to change, or our discussions about playing sports [become] moot,” he said.
The league’s executive committee voted 13-1 to punish violators and essentially tabled a Phase 2 of sports resumption. The SCHSL’s “return-to-play task force” put penalties in place for schools that violate the conditions set forth by the league.
The executive committee voted 13-1 that recommendations from the High School League’s return-to-play task force be given the force of “actual requirements,” with penalties in place for violations of those guidelines.
The current guidelines require social distancing, workouts limited to small groups and use of facemasks and careful sanitation.
Joe Quigley, the athletics director at North Myrtle Beach High School, said, “The words ‘requirement’ and ‘recommendation,’ I think, are different, and when you hear recommendation, it’s not treated the same across the state. ... This is life and death, that’s what this is, bottom line.”
Violations of the COVID-19 guidelines will be deemed illegal practices as defined by SCHSL rules.
As a practical matter, one violation carries with it a $500 fine, loss of one day of fall practice and being allowed to hold only one preseason scrimmage. Two violations mean loss of two practice days, its one scrimmage cannot be at home, and if it makes the playoffs, all its games will be on the road. Three mean that many less days of practice and a post-season ban.
The rest of the 3-phase resumption is off for now, and Singleton spoke of coming up with Phase 1.5, which would allow sharing of equipment (as in footballs) in the near future.
The SCHSL guidelines called for a 3-phase return, with Phase 1 in place “until further notice.”
Sports are divided into risk categories, with “high-infection risk activities” including football, wrestling, cheer and lacrosse. “Moderate risk” are volleyball, soccer, baseball, softball and baskeball, and “low risk” are cross-country, track, swim, golf and tennis.
“The safety and health status of our student-athletes and coaching professionals are our primary concern,” Singleton said. “We are facing a complex future, but I wholeheartedly believe in our membership to do what is in the best interest of the individuals and communities of South Carolina.”