In a mammoth Zoom session in which little zoomed, the S.C. High School League hammered out a plan for sports during the 2020-21 school year.
A novel coronavirus remains on the march, and all that has slowed down remains slow. The SCHSL approved a consensus plan on Wednesday morning, 14-2, and rejected a bold one, submitted by Lexington County District 1, by 16-1. Somehow all the deliberation took most of the morning. Entertainment value was provided by the special interests who voiced colorful opinions in the Facebook margins.
As it now stands, the moving target darts in this general direction, with commissioner Jerome Singleton hastening to add that almost everything is subject to change because time has demonstrated that the same is true of the aforementioned novel coronavirus, also known as COVID-19.
“This plan – and everything else – is all fluid,” Singleton said.
State government, in the person of Gov. Henry McMaster, and public-school sports government, represented by Singleton and the SCHSL executive board, are in cahoots, which is natural since public-school sports cannot advance without public schools, and maybe vice-versa. The governor announced that schools won’t start until Sept. 8 and that each district must offer its students the option of five days a week, in classrooms, or those same days with “virtual” supervision that is probably quite similar to Wednesday’s Zoom marathon. Parents and their kids will have to weigh the risks and make their choices.
Spring sports were stopped almost before they started. As of now, in September, fall sports will progress in a reduced state.
In football, practices won’t start until Aug. 17 and games won’t start until four weeks later. The season could start as late as Oct. 2 and still complete standardized 7-game regular seasons. During the practice periods, teams will be allowed two scrimmages and a jamboree.
Region games will be held first. Laurens will have four such games, followed by three non-region contests. Clinton will have five region contests and two outside. As a result, the Raiders must select three opponents from among Hanna, Clinton, Union County, Daniel, River Bluff and White Knoll. The Red Devils will play two from the set of Pendleton, Laurens, Newberry, Swansea and Blue Ridge.
It’s likely that the head coaches – Daryl Smith at LDHS and Corey Fountain at Clinton – and the athletics directors – Tommy Spires and Louie Alexander, respectively – are hard at work on redrawing those schedules and probably didn’t wait long after the SCHSL meeting ended.
Playoffs are to be four rounds instead of five. Teams that do not qualify will be allowed an eighth regular-season game.
A lot of work went into the bold plan presented by Lexington District 1 athletics director David Bennett and superintendent Gregory Little. It was innovative but ultimately viewed as too radical for the SCHSL leadership’s taste.
The plan would have started this fall with sports rated as less risky in terms of protecting the athletes’ health. Those sports would have been divided into four seasons: fall, winter, early spring and late spring. Football would have been held in early spring. Baseball and softball would have been held this autumn.
“We want every sport to get a chance to compete,” Bennett said.
Little added, “If we progress with high-risk sports, we risk those being canceled.”
As has been true ever since COVID-19 began its insidious spread, time will tell. The virus has more say than either state government or the SCHSL.
As of now, all remains as planned in the S.C. Independent School Association, where Laurens Academy’s teams reside.