COLUMBIA, S.C. – There was good news on two fronts Wednesday from the South Carolina High School League, and both involve fall athletic seasons.
After initially pushing back the start dates for practices and contests for most fall sports, SCHSL Commissioner Jerome Singleton said Wednesday that as of right now, everything is on track to at least begin every athletic season – including football.
Most fall sports are practicing already, and come Tuesday, competitive cheer and football can begin as previously scheduled. As always, the situation is fluid depending on circumstances surrounding the spread of the virus, but for now there aren't any roadblocks to keep things from moving forward.
“Very encouraged (over these last few weeks),” Singleton said. “(I) haven’t received many things from any school saying that they were having some issues. Of course there were a couple that had a couple challenges with their practices or scrimmages, but the majority of them feel that things are going well. They’re enforcing all of those guidelines that we had established earlier, so I’m very encouraged that we’re able to get all of the fall sports seasons – at least to get them started.
“..If today was the day of a contest…the answer would be, ‘Yes, we would be playing tonight.”’
The league has continually monitored the statewide COVID-19 numbers, Singleton said, as well as kept in touch with member schools throughout the process, with surveys being one of the main tools used.
“One of the questions on the survey was, ‘Do you plan to participate in fall sports this year?’” Singleton said. “There may have been a couple that didn’t answer that question, or maybe a couple that said, ‘At this time, no,’ but the majority of them have said they’re going to play fall sports.”
It was already previously announced that all fall sporting events would be allowed to have spectators, and Singleton added that the overall number of fans who could see events recently got a boost. The SCHSL applied for and received an exception from the governor’s office to go beyond the initial 50% or 250 capacity limit provided the venues still comply with all of the office’s safety guidelines.
In other words, if a venue has the ability to allow more than 250 spectators – through standing room only or other specialized areas – while still maintaining the recommended social distancing (6 feet) and other safety guidelines, then they will be allowed to do so.
“We sent (the exception) out to every member school and they reviewed it and said that they could comply with those guidelines,” Singleton said. “…Bear in mind that the exception is just a baseline or a threshold. (Schools) have the ability and the authority to be more restrictive, but you can’t be less restrictive.”
Any schools violating these policies are subject to the authority of their local law enforcement agencies, Singleton added. Violations could also lead the governor’s office to take back the exception and revert to the original number for spectators.
As per the initial protocols, everyone in attendance is required to wear a mask or face covering at all times, with only players, coaches and officials being exceptions to the rule.
Band members and anyone else seated in the stands and designated spectator areas will count toward the overall number allowed, but those on the sidelines – including cheerleaders – will not.
It is not mandated that spectators be allowed at events, Singleton said, but if the home team does allow its fans, then it also has to allow for visiting team fans as well. The exact number or the exact split between home and away fans in terms of percentage is something that each school or school district will have to communicate with the opposing side, he added.
Singleton also recommended to schools that they put aside a certain number of “walk-up” tickets to be available for those who have SCHSL passes. However, if an SCHSL pass member does not pick up a ticket before the venue reaches full capacity, then he or she can be turned away.
Earlier in the day, Singleton and the league provided member schools with a couple of options for contact-less ticketing and streaming of sporting events. GoFan, a high school ticketing company, has apps for IPhones and Androids that can allow schools to offer online ticketing solutions should they want to go that route, but it is not mandatory, Singleton said.
Also, the league has partnered with the NFHS (National Federation of State High School Associations) Network for several seasons now to provide a streaming option for championship games. Member schools are also afforded the opportunity to partner with the network and stream all or many of their home contests throughout the year.
Fans of the school can then access the video via a monthly ($10.99) or yearly ($69.99) subscription.