South Carolina High School League commissioner Jerome Singleton said Sept. 2 that he's "very encouraged" with the progress that's been made toward a safe fall sports season.
He's encouraged that an uncertain fall sports season will get started, if not finished without a hitch. He's pleased with how schools have enforced safety guidelines during the coronavirus pandemic, and he and the SCHSL executive committee have provided requirements for spectators and facilities as the fall season begins.
"If today was the day of another sport beginning, then our answer would be, yes, we would be playing," he said. "If today was the day of a contest tonight, the answer would be, yes, we would be playing tonight. This thing moves all the time; it's so unpredictable, so the answer I give you today may be obsolete by tomorrow. I hope not. I think we've done a fantastic job ... of getting us to this point."
Singleton said the SCHSL was granted an exception to S.C. Gov. Henry McMaster's executive order regarding spectator capacity – 50% capacity or 250 persons within the venue, whichever comes first – and he reiterated that it will take cooperation by all involved to ensure that the exception is not revoked. It will be up to each school district to make sure those requirements are being locally.
There's not a set number for all SCHSL schools in terms of capacity for outdoor events – each individual school and each individual venue could have a different setup of standing room only and non-traditional seating areas, so long as social distancing of 6 feet is maintained. For indoor facilities, that 50% capacity as defined by the fire marshall should not be exceeded.
Groups like bands and cheerleaders won't count against the total number of spectators, but consideration will have to be given to the seating they'll need to have blocked off for their use during the event.
"You get the opportunity to be creative as long as you can have the distancing," Singleton said.
That doesn't mean that schools have to allow fans inside the gates or that they even have to play all fall sports. For the ones that do, many of the guidelines that have been in place for months will still apply.
That means staying home if sick or showing COVID-19 symptoms – or, obviously, having tested positive for the virus. Face masks will be required at all times for all staff, spectators and "anyone associated with an auxiliary group", according to the league's requirements, while players, coaches and referees are encouraged to do the same.
Gathering in crowds for things like tailgating is prohibited, and cashless transactions, pre-sale options and electronic ticketing are suggested, if possible, as ways to limit contact and maintain distancing.
Fall sports like girls' golf, girls' tennis, swimming and volleyball have either started scrimmaging or have already held regular-season contests, with competitive cheer and football to follow. The first regular-season football games are scheduled for Sept. 25 but, as Singleton again reminded, it will take widespread cooperation to get to that point.
"The starter's gun has just fired. We're not there yet," he said. "We've got to continue to work hard to see if we can continue to move in the direction where we can get our fall sports off the ground and hopefully follow up with our other sports seasons as we move through the process."