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L-E planning to appeal proposed move into 5A

CHS, NC remain in 3A and 2A, respectively

Posted: August 3, 2017 2:04 p.m.
Updated: August 4, 2017 1:00 a.m.
C-I file photo/

LUGOFF-ELGIN PRINCIPAL Worth Thomasson (left) and the school’s athletic director/head football coach Matt Campbell are in the planning stages of filing an appeal to the South Carolina High School League following the school’s being elevated into the state’s largest classification.

A summer filled with rumors turned into reality for Lugoff-Elgin High and the school’s athletic director/head football coach Matt Campbell.

On Wednesday, the South Carolina High School League (SCHSL) unveiled its 2018-20 realignment proposal and the state’s governing body for public high school athletic programs did indeed expand class 5A to 48 schools --- up from 42 --- when the present model was instituted.

With a 135-day Average Daily Membership (ADM) enrollment figure of 1,631 students, L-E was the 43rd largest public school in the state. When 5A membership was increased to the 48, the West Wateree school was drawn into the state’s largest classification.

Camden, which has 988 students, remained in 44-member class AAA. With an enrollment of 469 students, North Central will stay in the AA ranks of which five of its 47 schools do not field football teams.

L-E, the largest school in Kershaw County, has been a member of 4A since the 2012 academic year when the school moved up from 3A. The SCHSL added a 5A division in 2016. The school’s athletic teams were placed in Region 4-5A along with Chapin (1,645 students), Dutch Fork (2,132), Irmo (1,712), Lexington (1,840), River Bluff (1,934) and White Knoll (1,854).

When he heard rumblings that 5A would expand to 48 schools, Campbell and L-E principal Worth Thomasson went to work forming an appeal which is in the developmental stages. 

“When he and I discussed this,” Campbell said of his conversations on the subject with Thomasson, “we knew this was something which could possibly happen. Now, we go to Phase 2 and see what we need to do and how do we do it. We’ll work closely together to try and figure this thing out.”

Schools have the opportunity to appeal the decision as to being placed in a new classification or region to the SCHSL’s Executive Committee by Wenesday, Aug. 16. That committee is headed for the 2017-18 academic year by Camden High School principal Dan Matthews.

Per SCHSL bylaws, Matthews oversees the 20-member Executive Committee meetings and will only be called on to vote in order to break a tie. The committee is scheduled to hear appeals from schools on Thursday, Aug. 24 at the SCHSL office in Columbia.

On Wednesday, as his football team was finishing team picture day, Campbell said Matthews and his committee could be hearing from L-E should the school go through with an anticipated appeal to the SCHSL’s proposal.

“We’re probably going to file an appeal and see what happens. If nothing happens, we’re going to put it all behind us and move forward,” said Campbell, who is entering his third year in the dual role post at the school. 

Campbell said had had “no idea” as to the chances of L-E winning an appeal. “I’m just trying to get as much pertinent information as I can together.”

Campbell said he knew L-E was “on the cusp” of being incorporated into 5A when he saw the ADM figures and heard the rumors of a possible top 48-school grouping. “The first rumor that swirled was that (the SCHSL) was going to expand 5A and go from 42 to 44, or 46 or 48. With us sitting at number 43, you had to believe that you’re going to be there,” he said.

“Do I think we’re ready for 5A? I don’t think we have the (enrollment) numbers, right now. We are taking steps in the right direction as a program.”

Like all public high school principals and athletic directors, Campbell was still trying to digest the proposal which came to his attention after his Demons returned from the football practice field Wednesday morning.

“I’m going to take a look at it,” he said as he perused the classifications and region pairings.

“We don’t want to move to 5A; let’s just go ahead and say that. All the regions up there are tough and you are talking about a large discrepancy in the number of students but it’s what the High School League put into play and it’s what they think is right.”

If 5A remains a 48-school division, it will cast a large net over a group which is headed by Wando, with 4,365 students, and ends with York Comprehensive High School and its enrollment of 1,573 boys and girls.

The SCHSL announcement came five days into the start of football practice and 16 days before L-E kicks off its regular season football schedule with Camden on Friday, Aug. 18. 

Like many athletic directors across the Palmetto State who also serve as the head football coach at their school, Campbell said putting together a plan for a possible appeal would not distract him from getting his football team prepared for the upcoming campaign.

“That’s for a year from now,” he said of the time line for the proposal coming into play. “What we need to do is to focus on the year that is coming up.

“It will not take a thing away from what we’re doing right now. Will I have to do some behind the scenes work between now and when the appeals need to be filed and help prepare that? Yes. But it’s not going to take away from the focus on this team and focusing on this year. There’s nothing that we can really control (as per the appeal) but we can control what we do. We have to prepare and get ready for the (Camden Shrine Club) Jamboree (on Friday, Aug. 11) and then, Week Zero.”

While L-E’s situation is fluid, given Campbell and Thomasson’s looking into filing an appeal in regard to the new plan, it is pretty much status quo for both Camden and North Central, both of which will remain in Region 4 in their respective divisions.

The only change to Camden’s current conference configuration is that Columbia will drop down to class AA with its spot being taken by Keenan (651 students.) The remainder of Region 4-AAA --- Camden (988), Chester (853), Fairfield Central (801) and Indian Land (975) --- remains untouched.

North Central (469 students) has a similar situation with AAA-bound Cheraw being replaced in 4-AA by former Region 3-A rival Lewisville. The circuit will remain at seven schools with North Central being joined by Andrew Jackson (633), Buford (624), Central (607), Chesterfield (510), Lee Central (637) and Lewisville (380) beginning in the fall of 2018.

 

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