Day of reckoning for S.C. High School League

metro - Chip Campsen S.C.senator candidate. provided ¬ ¬ Published Caption 8/6/07: Campsen ¬ Published Caption 2/17/08: Campsen

The fate of the S.C. High School League could hang in the balance as members meet during the league’s annual conference today in Charleston.

The governing body of high school athletics in South Carolina is under intense pressure from the state legislature to adopt changes to its executive committee and to its appeals process and punishment procedures.

The pressure, in the form of bills before both the state House of Representatives and Senate, comes in the wake of controversy at Goose Creek High School, where the football team was banned from defending its state championship due to an allegedly ineligible player.

A bill sponsored by Rep. Joe Daning (R-Goose Creek) recently reached the House floor. A Senate panel heard testimony Wednesday on a bill sponsored by Sen. Chip Campsen (R-Isle of Palms) that would place high school athletics under the state Dept. of Education, with a commissioner appointed by the state superintendent.

The bills would effectively eliminate the SCHSL, a 99-year-old organization made up of more than 200 member schools.

“Right now, (the High School League) is operated by an entity that’s unaccountable to elected officials,” Campsen told reporters after the hearing.

In January, the High School League’s executive committee voted not to recommend a package of proposals from Berkeley County officials that included adding geographic balance to the executive committee; establishing four levels of violations, with corresponding penalties; and recognizing violations that are self-reported or do not provide a competitive advantage.

Despite the executive committee’s rejection, the league’s members could vote to adopt changes at its meeting.

Legislators will be watching to see if the High School League makes changes this weekend.

“If they don’t, they give us the message that somebody’s not listening,” Sen. Wes Hayes (R-Rock Hill) told reporters.

But Campsen said legislators should act, regardless.

“I’d say no matter what happens Saturday, you need an independent body that doesn’t import their agendas into these decisions, that’s not worrying about who’s going to win the next state championship,” he said.