Realignment and reclassification for the 2014-15 and 2015-16 academic years could bring some big changes to high school football in the Palmetto State.
The High School League aligns its member schools every two years based on enrollment figures. The organization is considering going to five divisions — 40 schools in each division — for football only in time for the 2014-15 academic year and would crown five state champs.
The league currently has four classes with the largest 52 schools in Class AAAA, the next 52 in AAA, 52 in AA and the remaining schools in Class A. The High School League awards seven state titles in football, including two in Class AAAA, two in Class AA and two in Class A. Class AAA has only one state champion.
But critics argue that having seven state champions in a state that has only 200 football teams waters down the accomplishment.
High School League commissioner Jerome Singleton sent schools a tentative breakdown of the five divisions. The league’s executive committee will address the issue at its Jan. 22 meeting.
Divisions 5, 4, 3 and 2 each would have eight five-team regions, and only the top two teams in each region would qualify for the 16-team playoffs. This would ensure all teams in the playoffs would have winning records.
Division 1 would have only six regions that would range from six to eight teams.
Currently, only Class AAAA teams play 11 regular season games. But if the proposal becomes reality, all teams will play 11 regular season games.
Division 5 would include two regions with local teams. Region 7 would include Fort Dorchester, Goose Creek, Stratford, Sumter and Wando.
Region 8 would include Ashley Ridge, Bluffton, Colleton County, Summerville and West Ashley.
Local teams in Region 8 of Division 4 would include Beaufort, Berkeley, Cane Bay, Hilton Head and James Island. Local teams in Region 8 of Division 3 would include Battery Creek, Georgetown, Hanahan, Stall and Timberland.
Local teams in Region 8 of Division 2 would include Academic Magnet, Bishop England, Garrett Tech, North Charleston and Whale Branch. Local teams in Region 6 of Division 1 would include Baptist Hill, Burke, C.E. Murray, Cross, Lincoln, Military Magnet, Scott’s Branch and St. John’s.
Art Craig is the football coach and athletic director at Timberland, a school that would be affected dramatically. Timberland is currently in Division I-AA and won the state football title in 2011.
“I think it is a good idea,” he said. “But from where we sit, we have long trips to Georgetown and Battery Creek, and that’s not an ideal situation. Something needs to be done on behalf of everyone, just not a few.”
Last year, Timberland won the Division I-AA crown, while Bishop England won the Division II-AA title. That gave Berkeley County two teams that won state titles in Class AA.
“Last year, we saw our kids celebrating and Bishop England also celebrated. If you are talking about getting more student-athletes into a positive situation, it’s a good thing. But if you think that makes it watered down, then it was a bad thing. But remember, this is not professional football. This isn’t the NFL.”