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Socastee High School football players go through conditioning exercises in Horry County’s first phase of opening for the season. The phase limits groups to 10 at a time, enforced social distancing, a facemask requirement when not exercising and hand sanitizing often. Photo by Janet Morgan/janet.morgan@myhorrynews.com

Several athletic administrators around Horry County listened to the South Carolina High School League virtual meeting Wednesday morning and started to hear some familiar tenets

It was purely coincidental.

SCHSL Commissioner Jerome Singleton said the potential sports reopening plan adopted by the governing body started to be developed in late May, when it was clear that the COVID-19 pandemic was going to be rearing its head for most of the summer and into the 2020-2021 academic calendar.

Districts were offered the opportunity to answer surveys, as well as submit their own proposals.

“The main thing I asked them to do was to put something in there with a lot of flexibility,” Singleton said. “It’s just ironic that what we got from Horry County included some of the things they had in there. I didn’t receive theirs until a couple days ago. … What we have in place reflects a little bit from what we had in all those plans.”

The proposal gives Singleton and the executive committee quite a bit of leeway, including, but not limited to, moving football back as far as possible so the influential moneymaker can take place.

He said that his goal is for every varsity sport to play as much of a season as possible, and by squeezing football to a seven-game regular season, it increases the chance for a buffer to later sports.

Baseball coaches who spoke to MyHorryNews.com applauded the move since it bought their sport more time after they just lost their most recent season during the initial school closures. However, that led to serious doubts from football coaches.

“When you look at all the cases that we have currently, being a high-risk county, it doesn’t look good,” Myrtle Beach coach Mickey Wilson said. “It doesn’t look good at all. It is very disappointing that the Lexington plan wasn’t broken down a little more and discussed further. That plan, in my mind, would have made a lot more sense.”

The “Lexington plan” Wilson was referring to was a proposal presented Wednesday morning by current Lexington 1 School District Athletics Director Dave Bennett and Lexington 1 Superintendent Greg Little. That idea flipped sports seasons, putting those at low risk (as defined by the National Federation of High Schools) up first, while moderate- or high-risk sports hold off until the second semester.

It was the only proposal that got a full audience of the executive committee, outside of the SCHSL’s.

The league elected to keep the calendar in traditional form, with some minor tweaks. Fall sports who produce region qualifiers for the playoffs will be asked to conduct region games first before any non-region games can be played (for football, a maximum of seven weeks).

Additionally, any teams who don’t qualify for their respective round-shortened playoffs will be allowed to add one bowl-style game against another non-qualifier.

The global idea, Singleton said, is to use every possible date without ruling anything out.

“What we don’t want to do is pick up that sport and miss all other dates and opportunities and move you to five or six weeks [out] when it could have been safe,” said Singleton, who added that the SCHSL will have another executive committee meeting prior to even the amended start date.

Who knows what could be decided that first week of August? For now, everything is written in pencil. However, nothing has been erased completely.

“That was our purpose, to not cross it off before we had to cross it off,” Horry County Schools athletics liaison Roger Dixon said. “We felt like if we just picked up football and moved it to the spring and we can’t play in the spring, we’re going to lose football and whatever the gate receipts would be. If we left it and then ran out of time, we would potentially still have the [spring].”

Contact Charles D. Perry at 843-488-7236

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