The Whale Branch Early College High School football program was sanctioned by the S.C. High School League in January, but the Beaufort County School District only became aware of the sanctions this week.
According to district spokesman Jim Foster, a player used Whale Branch equipment at a December high school all-star game in Florida, a violation of High School League rules. Foster said the violation was reported to the SCHSL in December by Warriors athletics director Carlos Cave.
Whale Branch was fined $300 in January, and the fine was paid in March.
The district's timeline for the violation coincides with junior offensive lineman Justin Pope's participation in the eighth annual Offense-Defense Bowl Week festivities held in late December at the Citrus Bowl in Orlando, Fla.
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The district's policy is that district officials are immediately made aware of any High School League actions, student services chief Gregory McCord said. He said he first learned of the fine on Tuesday, that it was good the violation was self-reported but that there was a breakdown in communication.
"If and when we have situations, we want to be sure we communicate that out publicly, so that it won't appear as if were trying to hide things," said McCord, who said a coach or administrator can use any method to notify him of an issue. "I've always said that I believe we should be transparent in our actions. And this particular case, we were not."
Cave deferred comment to Foster and McCord.
According to Beaufort County School District policy, the program's head coach -- in this case Jerry Hatcher -- is responsible for any fines. An attempt Thursday to reach Hatcher was unsuccessful.
High School League commissioner Jerome Singleton said Thursday he did not remember any action taken against the Whale Branch football team this past school year.
McCord said he believes the $300 fine was the only penalty passed down by the High School League. He said he spoke to Cave and principal Priscilla Drake this week and the results of an internal investigation would determine whether the school district would take its own action.
"I believe I know everything I need to know, but I don't want to say with certainty until we close our conversation," McCord said. "It's still ongoing."