The chaos it is causing for high school athletes, coaches and athletic directors was on full display this week. The North Carolina High School Athletics Association (NCHSAA), says they are sticking with the August 1 start of fall sports pre-season sports camps until they hear from Gov. Cooper, while at the same time casting doubt that it will actually happen.
In a July 7 interview with the News and Observer, N.C. High School Athletic Association Commissioner Que Tucker said:
Based on what I hear as it relates to just getting school underway Aug. 17, it would be difficult in my mind to think we would be able to say, ‘Oh absolutely we’re going to start all sports, of any kind, on Aug. 1.’ But that’s based on me being a classroom teacher and knowing what’s entailed in opening up school under normal circumstances and it’s just difficult for me to envision we can do anything (with athletics) prior to school starting.”
The News and Observer speculated that Tucker’s press conference the next day “could be related to at least postponing the start of fall sports practice.”
In fact, the press conference held by the North Carolina High School Athletic Association answered no questions for coaches and athletes about the start of practice or the fall sports schedule. The lack of direction highlights the paralysis Gov. Cooper has caused across the state regarding schools and high school sports.
“We know everyone wants a decision about whether or not fall sports will start on time, but we simply cannot give you that answer at this time,” Tucker said.
“We must allow the Governor to govern. We must allow the Department of Health and Human Services and all of those advisers and the local school officials across the state the opportunity to make the necessary decisions,” Tucker said. “if it is unsafe for students to be in school, then certainly the idea is that it would be unsafe for our students to be playing in those athletic venues
“Because if I tell you that, the next question is, ‘Well if you’re not gonna start Aug. 1, when will you start?’ I’m not gonna tell you that Aug. 1 is off the table until I can put another date in its place,” Tucker said, according to Fayetteville Observer.
So we have the commissioner of high school sports saying on Tuesday it is difficult to see anything happening with fall sports before school starts on August 17, and on Wednesday announcing until the governor makes a decision on going back to school, practice is still set to start August 1, simply because they have no other date to replace it with.
Does anybody think that is a rational way to deal with 15-18-year-old high school athletes? To have them working towards an August 1 start of practice date, that the administrations of high school sports don’t believe can happen?
On Tuesday 7/7/09 Civitas became aware that Eastern North Carolina high school football coaches were actively discussing a proposal among themselves to try and move the football season to the spring semester, something that has been rumored but now appeared to be picking up momentum, at least among the coaches themselves.
An hour before the NCHSAA press conference, Civitas received a copy of the proposed sports calendar that Eastern North Carolina High School Football Coaches were discussing.
One successful coach told Civitas:
“The athletics directors and coaches want a decision! Not matter what it is. Just make one!”
Civitas noted this was simply a proposal. NCHSAA quickly made clear the schedule proposal was not their idea. Civitas should have made clearer that this is simply a COACHES idea, not one formally being considered by the NCHSAA.
High school sports writers were quick to point out that coaches themselves can’t change sports schedules, that would come from the NCHSAA board of directors and would involve many factors besides just football.
Civitas is a public policy organization. We normally don’t track the day to day details of high school sports.
However, this is simply one more area where chaos is reigning because of delays and confusion caused by Gov. Cooper.
With clarity and leadership, coaches would already know when they could practice, and play. If they could not play this fall, they would know if playing in the spring is a real option or not.
As Harnett County Board of Education Member Jason Lemons told Civitas recently:
“High school sports is still a way out, a way to make it to college for a lot of kids from rural counties like ours.”
A quote from a parent named Crystal from Thomasville sums it up: “My 11th grade student will be crushed if for some reason they can’t play. He’s worked so hard to pass his grades and absolutely loves football.”