As the summer vacation goes by and the new school year approaches, there are a lot of unknowns when it comes to the athletic programs of the consolidated Jasper County high school.
For the athletes of the former Hardeeville and Ridgeland high schools, foremost on the list is who will coach them.
"Me and the principals have already put a plan in place," Jasper County athletics director James Gardner said. We will hire the head coaches and the head coaches will hire their staff. We haven't put a definite timetable on it. Since the fall sports are right around the corner, we have made that a higher priority, like the football coach."
That football coach will be former Hardeeville head coach Blake Raley.
Former Ridgeland head football coach Richard Kirkland plans to leave Jasper County and join Bluffton's staff this coming season. That hiring is not official, however.
Other than football, however, Gardner says there have been no decisions made on head coaches. He emphasized that decisions on teachers come before decisions on coaches.
"As we transition into the consolidation, then we'll transition into the coaching positions," Gardner said. "If we've got someone who's not coming back, then we'll look at the person who's next in line. The primary concern is teachers first."
With the new school set to be located at the Ridgeland High School site, those will be the athletic facilities used, as well.
"Both schools are new, the gyms are new," Gardner said. "We still have some challenges with the Ridgeland facilities, though. The Hardeeville facilities are brand new, but it would just be costly to have high school events at the Hardeeville facilities. One positive though is the Ridgeland football facility is larger."
The consolidated Jasper County high school will play Ridgeland's football schedule and inherit Ridgeland's spot in Region 6-AA. They'll even have a familiar look for Ridgeland folks.
"Everything will stay pretty much the same," said Gardner, citing costs. "Ridgeland (the high school) will be the same colors, same mascot. Hardeeville (the middle school) will be the same colors, same mascot."
One long-term benefit of consolidation, Gardner said, is the addition of sports for the consolidated high school.
"We have the potential to add sports," Gardner said. "We're putting in place -- it's not complete yet -- but we're looking to add wrestling.
Gardner also said there were plans to add golf and tennis at the middle school level since they already had those facilities at Hardeeville, eventually growing those programs into the high school.
Follow sports editor Mike McCombs at twitter.com/IPBGSports.
Jasper County decision affecting other area schools, June 16, 2012 http://www.lowcountrynewspapers.net/archive/2012/06/16/story/jasper-county-decision-affecting-other-area-schools
Changes under way for Jasper County high school football http://www.lowcountrynewspapers.net/archive/node/197892
School consolidation approved for Hardeeville, Ridgeland, June 11, 2012 http://www.lowcountrynewspapers.net/archive/2012/06/11/story/school-cons...
Dispute over Jasper County school consolidation plan reignites, June 6, 2012 http://www.lowcountrynewspapers.net/archive/2012/06/06/story/dispute-ove...
Jasper County School District considers school consolidation plans, May 30, 2012 http://www.lowcountrynewspapers.net/archive/2012/05/30/story/jasper-coun...