There was a lot on the table for discussion during a Zoom meeting hosted by the South Carolina High School League and an ensuing press conference. However, what attendance numbers will look like for football games amidst the coronavirus pandemic was the main topic of discussion.
After the SCHSL was granted an exception to the Governor Henry McMasters' executive order of 250 people or 50 percent of a venue's capacity, whichever is less, at all fall sports events last week, SCHSL commissioner Jerome Singleton emphasized it is now up to the schools to take advantage of the opportunity given to the league and comply with the exception. It proposes local control over attendance numbers by districts or individual schools while following the social distancing standards.
"Please take ownership of this," Singleton said. "Right now, we have the ability to extend beyond what the governor's order is. Let's not put ourselves in a position where that could be revoked and we are not able to continue to do this.
"We really need to take ownership and work hard to make sure we monitor and implement the guidelines, and hold a high standard to it."
Spectators will be required to wear masks at all times once inside the facility. A plan has to be in place that allows for social distancing from among different units.
Support groups in the stands, such as bands, will not count against the number of spectators allowed, according to SCHSL officials, but the space occupied by those groups must be deducted from a facility's available space. Groups stationed on the sideline, such as cheerleaders, would not count against the space available for spectators.
The SCHSL is recommending advance online ticket sales in an effort to avoid ticket lines. It also offered the proposal of "drive-through" ticketing, with each car purchasing tickets for everyone in the car.
The proposal bans tailgating, as well as congregating in groups inside a venue. Schools are asked to block off seats on each row that are closest to steps to allow for social distancing during traffic flow. Also schools hosting contests are asked to consider having a COVID-19 coordinator. That person is to be responsible for implementing a specific plan on how to deal with someone who becomes ill during the contest that will minimize their contact with others in attendance.
The plan also eliminates teams gathering together during the postgame period.
Since there is no uniform way high school football facilities are set up in the state, that makes having a cookie cutter attendance plan unfeasible, according to Singleton.
"We have some places you can sit outside the fence and watch a game," Singleton said. "We have some places you can back your truck up and sit in the bed. Social distancing is the key, and we don't want to create challenges for schools where there isn't one, where there's a chance they can make it better if they're able to do it in a different way. Those opportunities ought to be given consideration."
The SCHSL has a 7-game season set to begin on Sept. 25. The first day of practice is set for Tuesday with the first scrimmages being allowed on Sept. 12.
On Monday, football teams were allowed to hold workouts together without pod limitations. Teams will be able to move to Phase 2.0 of workouts today, meaning some opportunities of offense going against defense will be allowed.
Singleton also said the possibility of moving the five state championship games from Columbia at the University of South Carolina's Williams-Brice Stadium and Benedict College's Charlie W. Johnson is being considered.
"We've got to see what our most feasible and best options are," Singleton said. "Everything is up for consideration, and nothing has been nailed down at this time. But that's a long way in the future. We're just trying to make sure we've got a season to come."
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