Originally created 03/19/03

Sports will play on despite threat of war



The last time Roger Hazel can remember the South Carolina High School League postponing games statewide was in 1963 when President Kennedy was assassinated.

That's not likely to change this week, even if the United States follows through on its threat to invade Iraq.

Unless the State Department decides to close South Carolina's schools, Hazel said, prep sports - much like they did the week of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks - will play on.

"I don't think we'll have a venue large enough to present an unsafe environment," said Hazel, the assistant executive director of the league. "If it would have happened during football playoffs or basketball playoffs where we had 27,000 people (at the Carolina Center) over two days, we might consider something. But you're only going to have 100 to 200 people at a baseball game or a soccer match."

The Georgia High School Association also isn't likely to postpone games - at least not yet.

"We certainly aren't planning on issuing any edicts," said Steve Figueroa, the director of media relations for the association. "However, the local school systems can do what they want."

Figueroa said that could be problematic.

Hypothetically, Richmond County schools could decide to continue playing, while Columbia County schools might decide to cancel their contests. If a Richmond County school is scheduled to play a Columbia County school, a conflict would arise.

"At this moment, there's nothing on the front burner," Figueroa said. "But we're looking at it. By the end of the week, our policy could change by 180 degrees."

Richmond County athletic director George Bailey is taking the same wait-and-see approach.

"It should come up, and I'm sure it will," he said. "If we do go to war or terror threats become imminent, I'm sure we'll discuss it, because of where we're situated - near an army base and by an old nuclear power plant."

That likely won't matter to the Evans baseball team, although some of the Knights' parents are employed at Fort Gordon.

Coach Ricky Beale said he's sure his team will want to play, and if there's not a threat to his players' safety, he doesn't see why they wouldn't.

He also understands life doesn't begin and end on the ball field.

"The kids are going to want to play," he said. "We have to do whatever is in the best interest for the kids, so we'll do whatever our higher-ups want to do. We're not going to question them. There's a lot bigger world outside of baseball."

Reach Josh Katzowitz at (706) 823-3216 or josh.katzowitz@augustachronicle.com.