Gray Collegiate Academy will be able to find replacement opponents if teams from its region in Class 2A forfeit games against the War Eagles in football or any other sport during the 2023-24 season.
The S.C. High School League executive committee voted 10-2 Monday in favor of allowing any team facing a region-game forfeiture in any sport to replace it with another opponent — if one could be found — and without penalty. Historically, a team that is awarded a win because of a forfeit cannot play another game in its place.
As many as six Midlands-area high schools could forfeit their scheduled games against Gray Collegiate in football, viewed as their way of taking a take a stand on fair play and competitive balance concerns regarding charter and private schools that are SCHSL members. Those forfeitures could spill over into other sports as well.
Fairfield Central, Newberry, Mid-Carolina and Eau Claire high schools all put “TBD” next to Gray on 2023 football schedules posted to social media. Newberry and Mid-Carolina are in the region for football only.
No decision to forfeit any of those games had been formalized or announced as of Monday afternoon. If region teams forfeit their games against Gray and it can’t find any replacements, the program’s last regular-season game would be Sept. 8 vs. Camden.
Monday’s executive committee meeting was called specifically to address a section of the SCHSL constitution that says, “No school will be forced to compete in any activity of the League, but a school fielding a team shall played the teams required by the region.”
The committee was asked to interpret that clause and whether or not penalties should be considered on either side of a situation involving a forfeit.
And though Gray Collegiate was not mentioned by name before the vote was taken almost two hours after the meeting began, it was implied and alluded to several times that the special Monday meeting was related to the impending showdown in Region 4-2A regarding what amounts to predetermined forfeits.
Several options were discussed Monday, including banning a team from the playoffs if they forfeited a region game without a valid excuse such as sickness or transportation.
Kathy Hipp, an at-large executive committee member from Anderson 3, spoke several times Monday against the idea of preplanned forfeits.
“We are opening a can of worms when we let teams pick and choose who they want to play in the region,” Hipp said. “There needs to be a penalty for not showing up. There needs to be a penalty greater than a loss.”
Teams that forfeit for any reason won’t face any additional consequence, according to Monday’s committee decision — the exception being games with signed contracts that have a forfeiture clause.
“There is a consequence to the decision,” Fairfield County Schools superintendent JR Green said. “We are conceding we cannot be region champs. We are conceding that we are giving up a win.”
The ongoing issues of competitive balance and fair play involving charter and private schools at the 1A and 2A levels were discussed throughout Monday’s meeting.
During the spring season, a total of nine soccer and softball games were canceled after teams from Keenan, Fairfield Central and Eau Claire chose not to play against Gray Collegiate.
Green told The State after Monday’s meeting that he would talk with his coaches and that a formal decision would be made and communicated to Gray as soon as possible on whether Fairfield will play the War Eagles in any fall sports.
“If the coaches are ready to make the decision, obviously we will notify them,” Green said. “Last conversation I had with them was that they were all on the same page. But that’s subject to change.
“We will present them with the information that was said today and be prepared to make our decision.”