Gray Collegiate loses realignment appeal. Others win plea to change classifications

The SC High School League Executive Committee has denied Gray Collegiate’s appeal to avoid moving up two classifications for athletics.

The committee on Tuesday voted 12-3 to deny Gray Collegiate’s request to move from Class 4A to Class 3A. Gray has been in Class 2A since it opened in 2014 but was set to be moved up two classifications to Class 4A for the league’s 2024-26 realignment.

Gray Collegiate has won state championships in various sports at the 2A level but drawn criticism and competitive balance arguments centering around how Gray (a charter school not bound by attendance zones) compares to public schools bound by such attendance zones when it comes to getting athletes.

Gray Collegiate principal Brian Newsome told The State the school will appeal the decision and go before the appellate panel, which is expected to happen later this week.

“Appreciate the opportunity to present our case before the executive committee ,” Newsome said. “We look forward to the opportunity to present before the appellate panel.”

Gray was one of 22 schools that are appealing their realignment placement with 13 going on Tuesday.

Tuesday was the first day schools could appeal their realignment, which happens in the state every two years and is done to level the competitive playing field among schools. This year’s realignment included a multiplier for the first time. The out-of-zone multiplier took each student who lives outside of a school’s assigned attendance zone and counted them as three for total enrollment purposes. The result inflated schools’ official enrollment figures and, in some cases, raised schools up one or multiple levels in classification for athletics.

According to the 45-day average daily membership obtained by The State via a public records request, 400 of Gray’s 496 students come from outside its given attendance zone by the SCHSL, which is Brookland-Cayce High School in Lexington 2. It is unclear how many of those students play sports.

Newsome argued Gray and other charter schools in the SC have an attendance zone that technically spans the entire state of South Carolina, as opposed to a specific local area.

Gray Collegiate has had notable success on the 2A level, winning championships in boys basketball, competitive cheerleading, girls basketball, football, softball and also played for championships in baseball and boys soccer.

Newsome said the school would have no problem moving up one classification but called the move up two classifications “unfathomable.” He cited safety concerns, especially in the contact sports of football and soccer.

The War Eagles routinely schedule schools above the classification because a number of schools at their classification level will not play them. That was during last season when teams in Gray’s Region 4-2A forfeited contests against Gray.

“There are a lot of schools that won’t play us, superintendents making rash decisions in districts not to plays us,” Newsome said.

Newsome said scheduling one or two opponents is a lot different than having to compete in a region with bigger schools, which would present challenges such as possibility eliminating JV sports and having to bring up many freshman to play on the varsity level.

Committee member Ray Cooper, justifying Gray’s jump from 2A to 4A, said because Class 5A (the top classification) will be larger this cycle, Class 4A is basically a bigger version of teams currently playing in Class 3A.

Appeals Decisions

Abbeville: Denied (9-5 vote) in appeal to go from Class 2A to Class A.

Burke: Denied (14-1) in appeal to go from Class 2A to Class A.

Brashier Middle College: Approved (11-4 vote) in appeal to go from Class 3A to 2A.

Charleston Math & Science: Approved (12-3 vote) in appeal to go from Class 3A to Class A.

Fox Creek: Approved (11-3 vote) in appeal to go from Class 4A to Class 3A.

Gray Collegiate: Denied (12-3) in appeal to go from Class 4A to 3A.

High Point Academy Denied appeal to move from Class 3A to Class but approved (11-4 vote) amended motion to go to Class 2A.

Horse Creek: Approved (15-0 vote) in appeal to go from Class 3A to Class A.

James Island: Denied appeal (14-1 vote) to move from Class 5A to Class 4A.

Seneca: Denied (14-1 vote) in appeal to go from Class 4A to 3A.

Southside Christian: Denied (9-5 vote) in appeal to go from Class 3A to 2A.