A 17-member appointed commission
would regulate high school sports in N.C.
By CHRIS HOBBS
RALEIGH – The landscape of high school athletics in North Carolina reached a level of high intensity on Tuesday.
The North Carolina General Assembly released House Bill 91 – titled Accountability and Fair Play in Athletics – and it calls for the North Carolina High School Athletic Association (NCHSAA) to be replaced as the governing body of high school sports in the state.
The bill was generated by the Senate Education/High Education Committee, and would form a 17-member committee appointed by governor (nine picks), Senate president (four) and House of Representative (four) to oversee prep sports.
If passed into law, the transition would be for the 2022-23 school year.
There are four parts to the bill with these effective dates: Part I, 2022-23 school year; Part II, July 1, 2022; Part III, July 1, 2021; and Part IV, when the law passed.
The proposal follows several months of inquiries and investigations into the NCHSAA regarding a wide range of topics – from finances (about $41 million in assets) to transparency in actions by NCHSAA staff to decisions made to more than $400,000 collected by fines imposed on member schools over about five years.
NCHSAA Commissioner Que Tucker appeared before a legislative committee regarding the organization on April 15. She said Tuesday in a video press conference that she also met with some members of the committee on Dec. 10.
She said Tuesday was “blindsided by the documentation” the committee had relative to the NCHSAA in that December meeting, which she said lasted more than two hours.
Tucker spoke in a video press conference later Tuesday only hours after finding out that House Bill 91 was being pushed forward.
She characterized Tuesday’s announcement as “a full scale attack on the ability and desire of the NCHSAA and its member schools to govern their own affairs.”
“High school athletics in our state should not be a political issue,” Tucker said.
There are 427 schools in the NCHSAA for the coming school year.
Tucker said her focus and that of her staff will be to continue providing services to those member schools.
“It’s not a power struggle for us,” Tucker said of dealing with legislators, adding her goal is to make the NCHSAA the best organization it can be and a national leader.
In the press conference, she acknowledged the amount of money in the NCHSAA Endowment Fund (an estimated $26 million) drew attention from legislators on the committee.
She did not speculate on the timing of the look-see about endowment money, saying she did not know why it was not an issue under previous NCHSAA leaders. “Why not (late executive director) Charlie Adams?… Why not (former commissioner) Davis Whitfield?” she said.
On Tuesday, the bill listed these representatives as those who introduced House Bill 91: John R. Bell (R, District 10, House Majority Leader)0, Donny Lambeth (R, Forsyth), Kristin Baker (R, Cabarrus) and Jason Saine (R, Lincoln).
State senators who have asked the NCHSAA for information and engaged the association during the investigation include Tom McInnis (R, District 25), who represents Anson, Moore, Scotland and Richmond counties, and Vickie Sawyer (R, Iredell/Yadkin).
McInnis triggered some initial inquires after Anson County High was banned from the 2019 state football playoffs after having multiple ejections in a game against Richmond County on Aug. 20 (second game of the season).
When it was determined Anson County had more ejections than allowed by NCHSAA rules (the penalty is no playoff eligibility), the NCHSAA notified school administrators.
It is an NCHSAA practice to not announce when a team has lost playoff privileges or violated a rule. The school is notified and the NCHSAA declines to confirm any media inquiries about loss of playoff status, referring all inquiries to the specific school(s).
When Anson County officials did not inform their team or make public acknowledgement the school was banned from the postseason, that status was apparently not widely known (if at all) until the state playoff bracket was released.
McInnis then made an inquiry to clarify why Anson County was not in the playoffs, and he eventually began to ask questions of NCHSAA staff about a variety of actions and rules.
HOUSE BILL 91: HOUSE BILL 91
LEGISLATURE DISCUSSES HOUSE BILL 91: https://www.highschoolot.com/senate-proposes-legislation-that-would-overhaul-high-school-sports-in-nc-dissolve-nchsaa/19780617/
TUESDAY’S NCHSAA PRESS CONFERENCE VIDEO: https://www.highschoolot.com/nchsaa-commissioner-other-representatives-respond-to-proposed-legislation/19781152/