Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Realignment could bring big changes to S.C. football

The face of high school football across South Carolina is getting a makeover, one that has most coaches and athletic directors excited about the possibilities.

If the numbers fall right, York County's seven schools could be placed in the same region.
Although four seems like a small number, it is huge for the seven schools in York County. On a recommendation by the state's principals concerning realigning schools for athletic purposes for 2012-2013 and 2013-2014, folks in this area could finally get the York County region of their dreams.
"I like it," Northwestern AD Bill Warren said. "When you look at it, it's for all sports at a school. Being in an eight-team region, which is not a guarantee but will likely happen, has many advantages.

"Having an all-county region will set up more rivalries. And unlike now with a six-team region where we have to find six extra games, and eight-team region gives us seven games and only four playing dates to fill.''

Warren envisions a region with Clover, Fort Mill, Lancaster, Nation Ford, Northwestern, Rock Hill, South Pointe and York together.

In past realignments, the numbers have been 48 teams in the top three regions, with the rest in Class A, the division that includes the smallest schools.

But more schools are opening and a decision was made to bump that number by four to 52 teams in AAAA, AAA and AA, and the plan left 51 teams in Class A. Good numbers across the board that doesn't make the smaller division the dumping ground for teams missing the cut in AA.

The realignment is based on the final 135-day enrollment numbers released to the South Carolina High School League by the Department of Education.

The list shows that locally Rock Hill has the most students with 1,992 and is No. 18; Clover No. 22, 1,865; Northwestern No. 26, 1,718; Lancaster No. 43, 1,511; Fort Mill No. 44, 1,509; Nations Ford No. 45, 1,481; South Pointe No. 48, 1,449 and York No. 51, 1,440.

A rumor making the rounds is that York does not want to leave AAA and has made a deal with a Lower State school wanting to move up, which would allow York to stay put.

"There is no truth to that,'' York AD Steve Boyd said. "We like the prospects of playing games close to home. That means more fans in the stands, which means we make more money to run our athletic programs.

"We will not appeal. We will not be switching. We are where we are and that's where we plan to be.''

Jerome Singleton, Executive Director of the SCHSL, recently sent an email to all member schools that read:

The League office will now accept 2012-2014 realignment requests from the member schools for classification placement consideration. There shall be four classifications. As you prepare your request, here are the guidelines:

There shall be fifty-two (52) schools in each class (except Class A will have fifty-one (51) schools).
Any school may request to move up to any classification level.

Any school requesting to move down to a different classification level, the requesting school's enrollment count may not exceed the requested classification largest school's enrollment count by more than sixty-five students.

Request were due in writing by May 20.

Singleton again was asked to do the realignment, but any appeals after the list is released in August will be heard by a panel chosen by member schools, not the League's Executive Committee as has been the procedure in the past.

"Going to 52 teams is a good move,'' Singleton said. "That's what (the principals) wanted and it's my job to carry it through.

"And I'm not saying there won't be any changes to the 135-day enrollment. I'm in the process of calling every school to verify the numbers we were sent ... see if there is anything peculiar we that was caught. That includes new schools, schools that split and any consolidations.''

Singleton said he will start work on the new regions in June and July, then send the realignment out in August. A window will be established to hear any appeals.

Four years ago, Rock Hill and South Pointe were separated from Northwestern, Clover, and Fort Mill and sent down I-77 to play in a Columbia-area region. Nation Ford opened that year and played as an independent.

South Pointe opened five years ago and played a season with the other two York County schools. Last year, Fort Mill, Nation Ford, South Pointe and York dropped to AAA. Clover, Northwestern and Rock Hill stayed in AAAA.

So if the numbers hold and if Singleton realigns geographically, the York County region will become reality after the upcoming school year.

Warren said the cost per mile to take a team on the road is $.62. Last year's football game at North Augusta cost $169.88. Lancaster County's mileage was not received, but based on the amount Rock Hill's schools pay, it would cost the Bruins round-trip to play at Gaffney $91.76 and $97.34 to Spartanburg. Those are region teams with games in each varsity sport.

If Lancaster is put with the York County schools, the longest region trip would be to Clover (88 miles round-trip) and would cost $54.56.

"The biggest things about such a region are it would cut down travel and increase revenue,'' Rock Hill coach Joe Montgomery said. "I'm sure all the coaches are excited about it in this area. I know we are and hope everything works out the way it should.''
-- Barry Byers, Rock Hill Herald