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Class AA will play its state championship in a new location, and likely have two state football champions this fall.
Class AA, which includes three Lancaster County high schools – Andrew Jackson, Buford and Indian Land – will play its state title game at Charlie W. Johnson Memorial Stadium, home of Benedict College in Columbia.
Previously the Class AA state title game has been held at the University of South Carolina’s Williams-Brice Stadium in Columbia.
Earlier this week, the executive committee of the S.C. High School League, the governing body of interscholastic competition in Palmetto State high schools, accepted proposals from Class AAAA, Class AAA and Class AA about where the title games will be played in 2011.
Class AAAA and Class AAA will hold their state title games Dec. 3 at Clemson University’s Memorial Stadium. Class AA will play its state title game at the Benedict arena on Dec. 2.
“It’s all about economics,” Indian Land High School athletic director and head football coach Mike Mayer said. “Football is the cash cow at every school and state funding is not what it used to be.
“You have to look for ways to create revenue and these two measures are in line with that.”
Moving the state title game away from Williams-Brice Stadium where the fee for the former Weekend of Champions, which included Class AAAA, AAA and AA title games the past two years, was $62,000.
Mayer said Benedict will host the game free of charge, with the school receiving funds through the sale of concessions. Benedict will also pay for security during the games. Benedict hosted the Class A state title games – Div. I and Div. II last season.
If a Class AA proposal to be considered by the S.C. High School League executive committee is approved at its April 28 meeting, then Class AA will crown two state champions as is done in Class AAAA and Class A. Class AA, which has 48 schools, would be split with 24 schools in each division, and 12 schools in each of the Upper State and Lower State.
“The idea for having two Class AA state champions is to give the Class AA schools an 11th game because all teams would qualify for the playoffs,” Mayer said. “No matter whether you host or are on the road, the gate is split between the two teams which is a financial gain.
“I’m in favor of it because it doubles your chances of winning a state title,” Mayer said. “You still have to win games, but the opportunity is there.”
Indian Land, Buford and Andrew Jackson, members of Class AA Upper State Region IV-AA, will compete in Class AA Division II Upper State along with Chesnee, Central of Pageland, Batesburg-Leesville, Mid-Carolina of Prosperity, Columbia, Lee Central, Carolina of Greenville, Liberty and Saluda.
Cheraw would be the lone IV-AA member to compete in the AA Upper State Division I.
Buford coach Mike Wells and Andrew Jackson coach David Moore each attended a recent meeting of the Class AA football coaches and voted in favor of the proposal.
“We had about 38 schools there and all but four voted for it,” Wells said. “I don’t have a problem with it and I feel it will help financially.
“It gives us a chance to go further in the playoffs and a shot to make more money,” Wells said.
Moore said he’s for the dual state titles.
“Some might contend it’s watered down, but each year when two state champions are crowned in Class AAAA and Class A, they don’t want to give their trophies back,” Moore said. “I think it’s good. The bottom line is you still have to play games and you get at least one extra game to generate funds.”
The split Class AA state champions is not a first, as AA had two state champions in 1990 and 1991.
Andrew Jackson won the 1990 Class AA Upstate title before falling to Bamberg-Ehrhardt for the Div. II state title at Volunteer Stadium.
AJ, which finished 10-5 under former coach Andy Tweito, defeated Chesnee, 35-0 for the Class AA Upper State championship.