SCHSL to vote on private schools Ruling will affect Bishop England

Bishop England High School has won 15 straight state championships in volleyball. (Paul Zoeller/Staff)

Some major changes in South Carolina high school athletics could be in store as the S.C. High School League’s executive committee votes on controversial proposals Tuesday.

The executive committee will vote on amendments that would force private schools such as Bishop England to play up a classification and will also consider revamping the state’s four-classification system.

Amendments passed by the Legislative Assembly last month would require private schools to accept the enrollment numbers of the public schools in the area of their physical address. Another amendment would limit private schools from having to move up more than one classification.

Bishop England athletic director Paul Runey said that would mean his Class AA school, which has about 664 students, would take on the enrollment numbers of Class AAAA Wando in Mount Pleasant, the largest school in the state with 3,551 students. This would bump Bishop England up from Class AA to AAA.

Other private schools in the state, such as Christ Church and St. Joseph’s, would have to move up from Class A to AA.

“It’s unfair that they just pick out private schools like Bishop England for something like this,” Runey said. “I’d like them to tell me what advantage we have that other schools don’t have.”

The proposals are fueled by the perceived success of private schools. Class AA Bishop England has won 15 straight volleyball state championships, three of the last four state titles in girls basketball and seven of the last 10 in boys soccer. Christ Church in Greenville County has won four straight Class A football titles and a state-record 54 straight games, St. Joseph’s in Columbia has won four straight Class A volleyball titles and three straight in baseball.

“I understand that the private schools have won an extremely high percentage of state championships in the last several years, and it does frustrate the traditional public school folks,” Wade Hampton athletic director Darryl Nance, a member of the executive committee, told the Greenville News. “But at the same time, I don’t think you should be passing rules that appear to target a single school or a cluster of schools. There’s never going to be parity or equity across the state.”

The executive committee will also take up the issue of realignment, which takes place every two years. This time, the committee could opt for a five or six-classification system instead of the current four-classification alignment.

The current four-class system includes two divisions for football in Class AAAA, AA and A, making for seven state champions in football and four in other sports. A five-class system would likely mean five state champions in all sports.