The South Carolina High School League’s Executive Committee’s recent decision to alleviate “competitive balance concerns” will mean that schools such as Bishop England High School, with an enrollment of approximately of 720 students, will have to go up against schools with double the enrollment.
The group OK’d the plan by a 12-4 vote which will include a multiplier on out-of-zone students who live outside of a school’s attendance zone. Each student who falls into that category will be counted three times – even if they don’t play sports. The new rule will go in effect for the 2024-25 academic year when the HSL will announce its biennial alignment.
The move mostly affects schools that currently compete at the Class A and AA levels, who dominate in postseason championships. Private schools such as Bishop England and charter schools such as Oceanside Collegiate Academy and James Island Charter will be affected.
Once the High School League announces its reclassification, schools unhappy with its reclassification can appeal.
Bill Warren, who shares the BE athletic director’s position with Paul Runey for the remainder of the academic year, has a unique perspective. He’s the AD at one of the targeted schools, and also is the president of the SC Athletic Administrators Association, which represents all ADs of all classifications.
He says student-athletes will continue to seek out the most successful schools.
“Student-athletes will continue to migrate to successful programs,” said Warren, who came to BE from Rock Hill High School. “It is hard to prevent this no matter how many rules are in place. At BE, we will continue to be a choice of a Catholic education that offers an excellence in both academics and athletics. No multiplier will ever affect that. We will continue to play under the rules we are given and adjust accordingly. It is hard to see where the numbers will fall but we anticipate moving up at least one classification, maybe two.”
Warren said the committee’s work was difficult.
“The competitive balance committee was charged with a difficult task – to define competitive balance,” Warren said. “It exists in many different areas - school choice, open enrollment, traditional powers, sport specific classes, school size, and urban vs rural schools. I am not sure all of these can be addressed by a committee. The multiplier does not address many of these issues but it is being applied to all.
“Working many years in Class AAAAA, school size was always a factor and the larger schools such as Wando and Dorman were traditional powers in most sports,” Warren added. “At the 1-A and 2-A levels, rural vs. urban is the main factor. Urban schools have many more resources available to them than rural school districts and a larger group of students to pull from with school choice and our current eligibility rules.”
Warren said the ruling will affect many schools - not just charter and private. Multi-school districts that have school choice will be drastically affected as well.
“As far as Bishop England - we will be affected but not as drastically as you think because of all the schools that will also move up from across the state. All urban school districts from larger counties will be impacted the most. Our Catholic-feeder schools are also out of our attendance zone. We are disappointed that the committee did not include our feeder students that have been in the Catholic system since kindergarten and are included in the multiplier. Our zone includes Daniel Island proper and Wando’s zone - it was assigned by the HSL when BE moved from downtown to Daniel Island.”