Paul Runey is 64 years old, and for 51 of those years he’s been affiliated with Bishop England High School in one way or another. He graduated from BE in 1974, and has spent all of his adult life as a coach or athletic director for the Battling Bishops.
On a normal spring day, he would pull up to the school in late afternoon and see a parking lot full of cars. He also would see diamonds, practice fields and a track and field complex full of student-athletes honing their skills in anticipation of state championship titles when the High School League holds its Weekend of Champions in May.
But with the threat of COVID-19, institutions around the world, including Bishop England, closed in an attempt to stop the spread of the virus. Still, there are occasions when Runey needs to go into his office. What he saw the other day was anything but normal.
“I went over there earlier, and I had no contact with anyone,” Runey said. “There were a few cars, and I saw, maybe, three people. I hope I am doing it right. But there are times when I have to come in.”
Runey is the athletic director at BE, which features some of the best spring teams in the state in sports such as baseball, soccer, boys’ tennis, lacrosse, track and field, and golf.
On this day, his focus was on what’s best for the school. But he shared his opinion on what is likely to happen next for high school sports teams in the Palmetto State.
South Carolina Gov. Henry McMasters ordered public schools closed until March 31, and the deadline was extended to April 13. On Monday (March 23), Charleston County School Superintendent Gerrita Postlewait told reporters that students probably won’t return to school on April 13.
Runey said he doesn’t see athletics back on the calendar for the remainder of this academic year.
“The state, the schools will re-evaluate the situation and see if time exists to play sports. But I don’t see that happening. I don’t see us getting back on the fields,” he predicted.
“The big question is how do you do it? It would take athletes about a week to get ready. But I just don’t see it happening. That being said, if they open school and have 500-600 students in classrooms, why can’t they play sports? Obviously, there aren’t going to be 500 people at a softball game.”
Runey said Bishop England follows the guidelines that the Charleston County School District has in place when it comes to weather cancellations. But Bishop England isn’t forced to follow the school district in other areas involving closings.
“But I can’t help but think if it’s not good for Charleston County, it won’t be good for us,” Runey said. “If Charleston County doesn’t go back, I don’t think we will go back.”
For now, Runey just wants to remind people to be safe and smart.
“I know this isn’t going to magically disappear,” he said. “It wasn’t that long ago when people didn’t know about this. Now, we know there’s nothing out there to stop this.”