Playoff proposal would bring major changes for 5 area high schools
Bishop England and Academic Magnet are among five area high schools that would be forced to compete in a separate playoff division for all sports if a Spartanburg County School District proposal is approved by the High School League.
Nine schools in Spartanburg are seeking to add an amendment to the High School League constitution that would force 15 schools around the state to participate in separate championship playoff series because those schools have countywide enrollment areas and can limit enrollment.
In addition to Bishop England and Academic Magnet, the other Lowcountry schools that would be affected are Charleston Charter, Garrett Tech and Military Magnet.
The schools would be allowed to compete in the High School League during the regular season, but would not be eligible for the playoffs in their regular classifications. The 15 schools would have their own playoff division.
Bishop England and Christ Church, two schools with highly successful athletic programs, seem to be directly targeted by the proposal.
“Without a doubt,” Bishop England athletic director Paul Runey said. “It's because of the success Bishop England and Christ Church have had over the years.”
Bishop England and Christ Church, which is in Greenville, have the best Class AA and Class A sports programs in the state on an annual basis. The Athletic Directors Cup was founded in 2001 to honor the top programs in the state's four classifications. Bishop England (Class AA) and Christ Church (Class A) have won the honor every year.
Christ Church athletic director R.J. Beach would not comment because he said he has not seen the proposal. The High School League's Executive Committee studied the proposal Monday and is expected to release all proposals this week.
The proposed amendment to the High School League's constitution will be voted on during the South Carolina Athletic Administrators Association's spring meetings March 6-10 in Charleston.
The other schools around the state that would be affected include Greenville Tech, Fox Creek, Brashier Middle College, Greer Middle College, St. Joseph's, Southside Christian, Governor's School, Calhoun Falls Charter and S.C. School for the Deaf and Blind.
The Spartanburg schools that made the proposal are Boiling Springs, Broome, Byrnes, Chapman, Chesnee. Dorman, Landrum, Spartanburg and Woodruff.
Academic Magnet athletic director Curt Hoffman concurred with Runey.
“It seems to be about success,” he said. “You have Christ Church at one end of the state and Bishop England at the other. The argument put forth is that these schools can recruit anywhere and can offer a tuition discount. It's on the table, but I don't see the proposal gaining any traction.”
Branchville High School, meanwhile, proposed a change that could affect only private, independent or parochial schools.
Branchville has a highly successful volleyball team that has reached the Class A state championship the last three years. But Branchville lost to Southside Christian in 2010 and to St. Joseph in 2011 and 2012. Both schools are private schools that would be affected by Branchville's proposal.
It's not the first time Bishop England's sports program has been targeted.
In 2006, a year after Sports Illustrated rated the school as South Carolina's top high school athletic program, Emerald High School proposed that Bishop England, a school with an enrollment of about 900 students in 2006, be reclassified from Class AA to Class AAA and compete against schools with enrollments of about 1,500 students.
Emerald, located in Greenwood, lost to Bishop England in four different state championship finals in the spring of 2005.
The proposal did not have enough support to gain approval by the High School League.
Follow Philip M. Bowman on Twitter: @pandcphil.