Members of the North Carolina High School Athletic Association met with around 50 members of the NCHSAA media on a virtual Zoom meeting last Wednesday to address several aspects that were discussed during the NCHSAA’s board meetings earlier that day.
One of those was that no decision has been made about the future of the high school sports in North Carolina for the summer and fall seasons amid COVID-19.
Simply put, NCHSAA Commissioner Que Tucker told members of the media that they’re treating right now similar to how they would a dead period.
Tucker also stated during the board meeting that no changes have been made to regular summer dead periods.
“The NCHSAA Board of Directors discussed the COVID-19 crisis at length. We remind our schools, coaches and teams that we are acting as if we are in a ‘dead period’ for all in-person activities,” said Tucker. “These restrictions remain in place until further notice. Virtual communication and activities to maintain relationships within teams is encouraged, but no in-person activities are permitted.
“We understand that many people are interested in how schools and teams can get back to workouts, practices and competition. At this time, it is premature to speculate on a return date and whether or not the fall season will be impacted by COVID-19.”
With the loss of gate revenue from the 2020 spring sports season, Tucker says the NCHSAA board has not discussed financial assistance to schools beyond giving money back to schools in summertime, which they do each year.
Despite the uncertainty heading into the 2020-21 school year, Tucker stated that the goal is to keep the state football championships the second week of December (as it has been). No word on whether the other fall state championships would remain as is or be altered.
The first state championships (girls golf and girls tennis) are normally scheduled around the last two weekends in October.
She also stated that if students could return to practice by Aug. 1, she believes the football season could go on as scheduled. The first regular season date for fall sports is Aug. 17 with the first football games scheduled for Aug. 21.
If not, then the season would more than likely be shortened, instead of pushed back. Most likely, it would mean fewer nonconference games, according to Tucker.
“When we’re putting our state championship dates on paper, we always start with the end in mind. If we’re delayed, and can’t start on Aug. 1, now we’re looking at shifting, we have to keep in mind that we have those conditioning days built in and there would be no sliding of that,” said Tucker. “Let’s say we can’t start until Aug. 15 with our first (practice) date; now we have to talk about having to shift the schedule, but at that point, are we talking about delaying football? No, we’d be talking about probably playing fewer games. Maybe we’re not able to have as many nonconference games as some teams would be playing, but I think that’s where the shifting would come in.
“I was on the phone last week with Omar Ramirez, who is my counterpart with the North Carolina Independent School Athletic Association, and we talked about the possibility that we may not even be able to start playing anything until after Labor Day. If that’s the case, then I think we’d be having to look at playing fewer games than we play right now.”
Tucker also stated that it would hard to see high school sports in the fall without fans, which has been a potential strategy for professional sports like Major League Baseball and golf’s PGA Tour as they hope to return this summer.
One sport, NASCAR, announced last Thursday that it would resume in-person racing on May 17, which will kick off a slate of races that includes seven events in three series at two race tracks — Darlington Raceway and Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Each of NASCAR’s return events will be run without fans in attendance. Further schedule adjustments will be announced in the future, according to a press release from NASCAR.
“High schools playing without fans, obviously, is never what we would envision,” said Tucker. “The regular season of every sport we sanction belongs to the membership and so for any school who fields a football team, to be faced with the prospect that they would be trying to have a fall football season or fall soccer season or volleyball season and then no fans to be permitted to come in at all, would be financially devastating.”
Tucker also addressed that there are scenarios where games could be played with limited fans, which would generate some revenue.
She also stated that all of this is determinant on where everything is in terms of the three phases that North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper laid out to ease cornavirus restrictions.
Phase one is slated to be implemented this weekend.
“I think I could imagine that there could be a scenario where football is played, but the numbers are limited,” said Tucker. “You will still be able to allow spectators to come through the turn stalls, through the gate, but the numbers are limited and therefore, there could be that opportunity to still generate some funds, would it pay the bills totally? perhaps not.
“But I think that will be something that as we move on into, let’s face it, we’re not even in phase-one of the plan that our governor has laid out,” added Tucker. “Until we can get to phase-one, trying to think about phase-three, which is where we would have the opportunity to say ‘oh yeah, we’re going to be able to have these spectators in the bleachers’, it’s hard to really even be able to plan and talk about how that’s going to look. Every state in the country is faced with the same thing we’re faced with here in North Carolina.”
NCHSAA Board of Directors concludes Spring 2020 meeting
The NCHSAA Board of Directors has concluded their work for the Spring 2020 Board of Directors meeting, held last Tuesday and Wednesday via a virtual platform.
Below are a few highlights of decisions of the board of directors.
• Approved policy mirroring the State Board of Education’s decision to extend the validity of Pre-Participation Examinations (PPE) conducted on or after April 1, 2019. Also acknowledged a State Board of Education decision to allow academic eligibility for any student meeting local promotion standards during the fall semester of 2020-2021;
• Declared co-champions for the State Basketball Championships of 2020. Conferring the honor upon all Regional Champions following the decision to cancel the State Championships in 2020 due to COVID-19;
• Approved an adjusted contact definition and new contact limitations football which was developed in partnership between the NC Football Coaches Association and the NCHSAA Sports Medicine Advisory Committee;
• Approved adjustments to the soccer playoff calendar (now a Monday, Thursday format for early rounds) and an adjustment to allow regular season contests to end as a tie in men’s and women’s soccer following two ten-minute overtime periods;
• Approved changing the number of qualifiers in Swimming from each region from the top eight to the top six in order to maintain the total of 24 state qualifiers, the remaining six qualifiers will be the top six times from any region;
• Approved the distribution of grant funds in excess of $120,000 to member schools requesting and awarded through the inaugural NCHSAA Grant Program.