The South Carolina high school football state championships for the top three classes will remain at Williams-Brice Stadium next season, despite earlier requests from some athletic directors to move the games because of the high cost of using the facility.
On Wednesday, the South Carolina High School League’s executive committee voted 16-0 in favor of the Class 3A, 4A and 5A games staying at USC next year. The Class A and 2A championships will remain at Benedict College and take place the day before the other championships.
"Right now, the University of South Carolina is the best venue and best place to do it," SCHSL commissioner Jerome Singleton said.
Singleton, along with a marketing firm the SCHSL uses, has been in talks with Founders Credit Union to become the sponsor of the games at Williams-Brice. The sponsorship would help offset the costs charged by USC for renting out the facility. In October, Founders Credit Union agreed to a 10-year, $7 million deal for the naming rights of USC’s baseball stadium, which was renamed Founders Park.
Singleton said the deal with the SCHSL would be for one year and FCU would get its logo on the field, ads in the program, mentions during the announcements of the game and a luxury suite.
"It has progressed real well, but I don’t want to make any harsh comment that it might not go through," Singleton said. "We are hoping in the next few days, at least, we can get this deal done."
According to SCHSL financial records obtained by The State, the cost for playing the 2015 state championship games at Williams-Brice was $49,753.06, up more than 8,000 from 2013.
Those costs, which cut into the revenue for the participating schools, were the reason athletic directors from Class 4A and 5A wanted to move the games. Since 1997 the championships have been played at Williams-Brice every year except 2008 and 2011 when the games were played at Clemson’s Memorial Stadium.
Clemson did not charge the SCHSL for the use of its stadium.
In March, the ADs got the approval to look into the possibility of moving the championships away from Williams-Brice Stadium. Potential venues included Coastal Carolina and South Carolina State, and high schools such as Spring Valley, Byrnes and Dorman.
"It is just the different fees stacked on top of each other. We just want to be cost effective and finding out what is best for everyone," Lexington football coach and athletic director Josh Stepp said in March. "The kids want to play there (Williams-Brice) but we’ve got to look at how we are best maximizing our revenue for everyone involved."
But if the sponsorship goes through, that would alleviate those problems. If the deal had been in place this year, participating schools should get $4,175 in additional money.
"Anytime you can use funding to offset costs, that funding goes back to the member schools," Singleton said. "We are hoping this becomes an attraction. It is one of the most well-attended sports events outside of Gamecock games."
Cost to use facilities
The amount the SCHSL has paid to the host sites for the football state championship games since 2008: