High school basketball players will wear masks when games start as scheduled on Jan. 4, the N.C. High School Athletic Association announced on Thursday.

The NCHSAA Board of Directors decided during its remotely-held winter meeting that concluded Thursday that there would be no alterations at this time to the 2020-21 modified athletic calendar. That means basketball practice started Monday and a 14-game regular season, with no more than two contents a week, begins Jan. 4.

The board also approved the creation of a 60-second officials timeout in each quarter for basketball, providing an opportunity for players to adapt to wearing masks during competition.

Masks are currently required to be worn by volleyball players and everyone else inside the gymnasiums when the players are practicing or competing.

Que Tucker, NCHSAA commissioner, said, “As we await the COVID-19 vaccine and hopeful abatement of the current worldwide crisis, we believe that better days are ahead for NCHSAA member schools and we will again be able to offer the robust programs and championship events that our student-athletes, coaches and communities have enjoyed for so long.”

The board also approved the allocation of $4 million as a one-time subsidy for schools offering athletic programs during the 2020-21 school year.

“Not only will the NCHSAA weather the storm, we will be able to provide financial assistance to our member schools’ athletic programs during these difficult times,” added Tucker.

Each school’s cut of the $4 million will be determined later by a yet-to-be-formed NCHSAA subcommittee. The subsidy is coming from undesignated funds in the NCHSAA’s endowment.

Also on Thursday, the NCHSAA:

• Updated the 2020-21 modified sports manual for basketball, football, lacrosse, soccer and swimming/diving

• Approved virtual monitoring (telemedicine) as an alternative to face-to-face monitoring of the protocol used after a player suffers a concussion

• Eliminated subdivisions in football, effective August 2021; and

• Reduced the number of regular season football games to 10, effective August 2021 (teams may play seven regular season games in the season that starts Feb. 26).

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