The S.C. High School League sent its proposed realignment for the 2014-2016 academic years to the state's athletics directors on Friday, and two area schools -- Beaufort High School and Whale Branch Early College High School -- could change classifications and regions.
Beaufort High is slated to drop from Class 4-A to 3-A and join Hilton Head Island High in Region 6 -AAA, while Whale Branch would move up from 1-A to 2-A to join county rival Battery Creek in Region 6-AA.
Meanwhile, Ridgeland-Hardeeville will stay in 2-A, changing regions from 6-AA to 5-AA.
According to Beaufort High athletics director Jerry Linn, the school will appeal in an attempt to stay in Class 4-A. He said the school in June submitted a letter to the SCHSL expressing its desire to remain in 4-A.
"(Principal Corey) Murphy wants us to appeal to stay in 4-A," Linn said. "I polled the coaches, and some wanted to go 3-A and some wanted to go 4-A."
According to the letter sent to all athletics directors, all appeals to the High School League must include an alternative realignment proposal that includes all regions affected by any proposed changes.
Schools directly affected by any appeal must be contacted and provide a written response to the High School League that voices support for the proposal. A lack of written support from the affected schools will be viewed as nonsupport.
Linn said there are pros and cons to dropping down to 3-A.
"If we stay where we're at, we're competing at the highest level. We're competing with schools that can fill out their athletics teams with a broader choice of athletes than at the 3-A level, that are get more exposure than at the lower levels," Linn said. "However, if you have somebody that's good, the scouts are going to find out about that anyway, no matter where you play. And in 4-A, we're going up against schools, which we have been for years, whose enrollments are three times our enrollment."
The division among the Beaufort High coaches is a philosophical one.
"The coaches that wanted to go down, they think it's time for a break and they can maybe become more competitive," Linn said. "Coaches that wanted to stay said, 'if you want to be the best, you've got to compete with the best.'"
Linn said travel does play a factor in deciding what's best for Beaufort High and that the district "just can't afford to send us all over the state."
He cited the fact that when Hilton Head and Battery Creek originally dropped to 3-A, they were traveling distances Beaufort High, still in 4-A, didn't have to since most of its trips were to Charleston.
"Buses aren't getting any cheaper," Linn said, "and fuel costs have broken the transportation budget."
One benefit to dropping to 3-A would be the potential for more local matchups with the smaller schools in the area.
"We wouldn't have to worry about the 4-A points system," Linn said. "We could play the local schools. As long as that points system is there, that's a problem."
Whale Branch athletics director Carlos Cave said the Warriors knew they would be moving up based on enrollment, but the debate was always about the region they would end up in.
"We don't have a problem with it, at the end of the day, because of our location," Cave said. "There really aren't any close area schools. We were going be stuck between a rock and hard place."
After having conversations with ADs from around the state, Whale Branch knew it would likely be paired with Battery Creek.
"They were either going to move us both into Region 5-AA," Cave said, "or put us both in the Charleston region."
In the end, Cave said, the move to Region 6-AA simplifies Whale Branch's travel.
"All the times will be consistent," Cave said. "All of our trips will be between an hour and 15 minutes and an hour and a half. All of our travel is pretty much the same. Some were closer in 1-A but there were some really long trips as well."
Jasper County athletics director James Gardner said Ridgeland-Hardeeville is content with its region switch.
"We're fine. We were in that region some years ago. We're just going back to where we were," Gardner said. "We're fine with it. We're not going to appeal. We're fine with where ever they put us. We're just ready to play."