SC High School League approves multiplier to address competitive balance

Posted 11/16/23

Big changes are coming to high school sports after the South Carolina High School League executive committee approved a plan on Wednesday to address concerns over competitive balance. 

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SC High School League approves multiplier to address competitive balance


Big changes are coming to high school sports after the South Carolina High School League executive committee approved a plan on Wednesday to address concerns over competitive balance. 

The committee approved an out-of-zone multiplier formula by a 12-4 vote. This will count each student, not just athletes, who live outside of their school's designated zone as three students toward the total enrollment. 

“Is it perfect? No, nothing we ever come up with is going to be, but it satisfies all the legal parameters if we apply it evenly across the board,” Committee Member Matthew Hiers said. “That’s a clean regiment that’s set forth, that is going to be applied to all schools, and we can address those exceptions on a case-by-case basis.”

The committee considered a few other options besides the multiplier, including a separate playoff for charter and private schools, but it was agreed the multiplier was the best option. 

“I think it is the cleanest, most easily understood, most evenly applied proposal that I think exists before us,” Committee Member J.R. Green said. “I think it is very important that we move forward with something.”

This landmark decision applies to all schools, but charter and private schools in lower SCHSL classifications are specifically affected, with the potential of moving up one or two classes.

The proposal is aimed at addressing the recent complaints about competitive balance in high school sports. 

Things boiled over last spring when schools from Gray Collegiate’s region forfeited their games against the school because they felt they were at a disadvantage. These schools carried that decision over into the fall sports season and are expected to do so again in the winter season. 

In response, Gray Collegiate considered a petition to move up to 3A during the next wave of reclassification. But now, it appears that decision has been made for them. 

It’s not just Gray though. In other places around the state, private and charter schools are also dominating lower classification competition. 

A public school has not won the Class A football championship in three seasons. This fall, a private or charter school won state titles in both Class A and 2A for volleyball, girls tennis and boys cross country. This is why some members, including Green, questioned the hesitancy for a separate playoff option.

“When I look at, for example, in one and two A, and I look at who is competing for the state championships, overwhelmingly it’s charter and privates anyway,” Green said. “If it’s all about competing, I don’t see what the charter and privates lose when there is a separate state championship.” 

Representatives of private and charter schools on the committee were strongly against this option. It ultimately never made it to a vote after the committee decided to drop the proposal due to fears it would violate state laws about how public and private schools should be treated. 

“It would be logistically very difficult for charter schools. My school for example is a very rural school, and it would limit the number of teams to create fair brackets in some sports,” Commitee Member Julianne Lang of Lowcountry Leadership Charter School said. “Charter schools are very unique. Not many of us are very alike in what we offer, especially for 1A schools and rural schools, we have a lot of logistical concerns.”

A few amendments that would tweak the ruling failed to pass Wednesday. One would have excluded students who have been part of a school or feeder system since the start of the seventh grade. Another attempted to lower the multiplier from three to two.

“I’m afraid in trying to do something quickly, we’re going to move competitive balance a different way,” Committe Member Kathy Hipp said. “Kids are going to schools outside of their attendance zone for other reasons than sports, and a multiplier applied to everybody is not capturing that.”

The multiplier will take effect at the start of the 2024-25 school year and will be taken into consideration when the high school league’s realignment committee sends its plan for the 2024-26 school years.

Schools that disagree with the realignment committee's decision will have the opportunity to appeal.

The executive committee will examine the results of the next realignment and determine if the multiplier is the long-term answer to the competitive balance problem. 

“I think we have come a long ways from both groups,” Committee Member David Byrd said. “What we’re hearing from everyone as a whole is to move forward with this, see where it takes us, and then be able to do like we do with any other reclassification or anything else we do, come back to the table and try to fine-tune some things.”

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