A House panel unanimously advanced a bill that would restructure the state’s High School League. The league regulates athletics for public high schools in South Carolina. It is the subject of a handful of bills in the legislature this year.
After an 8-0 vote in subcommittee, State Rep. Joe Daning’s (R-Goose Creek) bill goes to the full House Education Committee. Daning said the tipping point for him was a league decision last fall that disqualified Goose Creek High School from the state championships over a player who was not eligible because he had moved to another district with his mother to avoid a domestic violence situation. Daning and other lawmakers contend that the penalty was too harsh.
Daning’s is one of the most aggressive of several proposed bills that try to restrict the powers of the High School League. There are three more filed in the House and one in the Senate.
The measure, as amended Wednesday, disbands the high school league and sets up what would be called the Division of Interscholastic Athletics under the South Carolina Department of Education. It would also create an independent, 13-member appeals panel.
“The bill will actually put transparency into a system that… it’s not apparent that we have now,” Daning told South Carolina Radio Network, “You know I can quote cases and cases of inconsistencies with their own rules and constitution. I think it’s more about their rules and regulations than it is about the child.”
Ronnie Matthews, the High School League’s appointed spokesman at the hearing, told lawmakers that he was offended by such statements.
“Just because a kids not eligible doesn’t mean the league is not for kids. They are 100 percent for kids. As are all these people that spoke today, the coaches, principles, athletic directors, they are for kids. But if theirs not some sanctity to the rules, why have rules? Just let everybody play anywhere they want to?” Matthews told South Carolina Radio Network.
Matthews contends that the league’s constitution is clear and that appeals can be filed with the group’s appointed executive committee.
Rep. Joshua Putnam (R-Piedmont) voted for the bill. He charged the league to make changes at its upcoming convention in March.
Wednesday’s vote “sent a message across the bow,” Putnam said, “The General Assembly of South Carolina, we will take the measure upon ourselves if you’re not willing to change the organization.”
Matthews, a former member of the league, says there is no need for the legislative push: “The league changes every year. I mean there are constitutional changes that are made every year. Just unfortunately it’s simply not what the legislature wants, you know, I’m really not sure what they want. They said they want change, but they didn’t say what change.”
Daning says he wants to see that the some of the league members change their mindset.
“If they refuse to change, then we have to change them because they keep talking about the 207 schools, the 207 principals, the 207 coaches. I’m thinking about the thousands of students they’re supposed to be taking care of. They’re not taking care of the coaches. They’re not taking care of the (Athletic Directors). They’re supposed to be taking care of the students,” said Daning.”