By Thomas Grant Jr.
Within the next week, Class 2A schools Gray Collegiate Academy and Northside Christian will learn what level of classification they will compete in the next two years.
Both the West Columbia Charter and private high schools have appealed the newest reclassifications completed by their respective sports associations. The two schools were moved up into higher classifications for the 2024-26 school year.
Gray Collegiate was the first to appeal its move from Class 2A to 4A before the South Carolina High School League on Tuesday. During the afternoon session before the Executive Committee, Principal Brian Newsome expressed safety concerns about his smaller school competing against those with higher enrollment numbers.
The SCHSL utilized a 3.0 multiplier formula where every charter school student who lives outside the assigned attendance zone counted as three for its enrollment numbers. Gray Collegiate’s student population of 486 included 400 students outside the attendance zone who were counted as three students, resulting in a population number of 1,296 which puts it in Class 4A.
Newsome pointed out other Class 4A schools will have a depth advantage, especially in sports like football and soccer. He also pointed out the challenges Gray Collegiate has faced in terms of scheduling teams due to its fellow Region 4-2A teams opting to forfeit games in all sports and other school districts who have declined to schedule it.
This past season saw Gray Collegiate face out-of-state programs like IMG Academy to replace the forfeited games. Newsome also revealed the school has signed to play defending Class 5A champion Dutch Fork next season to go with a home game with IMG Academy.
Citing its matchup with Dutch Fork and Gray Collegiate’s past and current championship success in Class 2A, the committee voted 12-3 to deny Gray Collegiate’s appeal. The school will now have another opportunity next week in front of the Appellate Panel.
Appeal hearings continue Thursday with American Leadership Academy out of Lexington also seeking to avoid moving up to Class 3A.
Similar concerns regarding the disadvantages of moving up in classification at this time are being expressed by Northside Christian. The newest SCISA realignment has the Crusaders going up to Class 4A in all sports except football, where it will compete in Class 3A.
While Northside Christian’s student population has risen near the level of other Class 4A schools like Wilson Hall, athletics director Dean Howell believes the school is not fully ready to compete in all sports against more established programs like Cardinal Newman, Hammond School, and Heathwood Hall with higher athletic participation numbers.
He cited Northside Christian’s not having a boys’ varsity soccer team as an example of areas where the school is still attempting to build. Under SCISA rules, Howell can either appeal through a letter or before a 10-person executive committee by Friday.
SCISA Executive Director Michael Fanning said enrollment is the biggest and primary factor used in realignment. Unlike the SCHSL, SCISA schools have rarely received an opportunity to get a second appeal before a higher committee.
S.C. BASKETBALL COACHES ASSOCIATION TOP 10 RANKINGS
3. St. James
6. TL Hanna
7. Ft. Mill
10. West Ashley
1. Gray Collegiate
2. Oceanside Collegiate
3. Hampton County
4. Andrew Jackson
7. Strom Thurmond
10. Bishop England/Greer Middle College
3. Fort Mill
4. JL Mann
5. Rock Hill
6. Dutch Fork
8. Carolina Forest
1. Bishop England
2. Silver Bluff
3. Andrew Jackson
4. Gray Collegiate
5. Lee Central
6. Oceanside Collegiate
Photo by George Matsui