For years, Charleston county high school coaches — particularly in football and basketball — have lobbied to place middle school sports teams under the Charleston County School District umbrella. The coaches and athletic directors understandably believe a smoother “feeder” system like those in various districts across the country makes high school teams more competitive.
It's not an odd idea, or a bad idea. The basic concept is as old as professional baseball's minor league step-ladder to the majors.
What's new is CCSD's sudden interest in taking over middle school sports from privately run leagues that use school facilities. And not just in football and basketball, but in all sports offered by the South Carolina High School League. The basic proposal calls for school employees to serve in coaching roles currently held by volunteers.
The timing isn't about “control” or money. It's not even about egos or winning.
It's about child safety and protection.
It is no coincidence that CCSD officials are considering this $1.5 million project in the first school year after Louis “Skip” ReVille was convicted in June of molesting 23 boys. He was sentenced to 50 years in prison. ReVille, 33, held several teaching and coaching jobs after graduating from The Citadel, including three seasons as a volunteer head basketball coach of a team at CCSD's Moultrie Middle School in Mount Pleasant.
A partial police report obtained by The Post and Courier indicates ReVille admitted he led “some games the boys would play” at Moultrie, inappropriate games to say the least.
Alarm bells went off at CCSD headquarters in the days after ReVille was arrested in October of 2011. ReVille had been screened by the District's RAPTOR security system applied to all volunteers. CCSD spokespersons tried to distance the school district from what were then allegations by stressing that ReVille was not a CCSD employee.
But the basketball players ReVille coached played their games at Moultrie, practiced at Moultrie, attended Moultrie and wore “Moultrie” on their jerseys. Parents complained that some of those practices were “closed” by ReVille's order, and the program was rarely, if ever, monitored by CCSD officials.
Clearly, no volunteer program endorsed by CCSD has as much of a school stamp of approval as its outsourced system of middle school athletics, and few volunteer programs provide volunteers as much access to kids.
Of course, ReVille is the villain here. He is one of the worst molesters in South Carolina history. Most volunteer coaches working with CCSD middle school athletes are capable, heartfelt, helpful people.
But know that CCSD, and other cash-strapped school districts, do not seriously consider $1.5 million proposals they aren't sure how to pay for just because a few high school coaches want to win state in 2017.
A middle school sports program involves transportation and insurance costs as well as coaches. All sports offered by the SCHSL?
This is a district in which each new softball is precious, where barbells and infield chalk are graciously accepted — often thanks to sponsor donations. In Charleston County, school booster clubs pay for some assistant coach stipends.
Football parents want stadium improvements, baseball players want covered batting cages, swimmers want pool time.
Overall, the “feeder system” idea sounds logical.
The more sports offered at middle schools, the more kids get away from video games and get involved in real activity.
There still might be a place for volunteers in this new system, as team sponsor recruiters.
And positive reaction to a horrible situation is a good thing going forward.
Reach Gene Sapakoff at 937-5593 or on Twitter @sapakoff