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RALEIGH — A new sanctioning body initiated by the state government could drastically alter the landscape of North Carolina high school athletics in the near future.

A bill introduced by state Senate Republicans on Tuesday, July 20, would pull the oversight of high school athletics away from the North Carolina High School Athletic Association to a new 17-member commission.

House Bill 91, discussed on Tuesday, July 20, took its first significant step forward toward law when the state Senate Committee on Education voted in favor of the bill on Wednesday morning, July 21. The bill was amended from its original focus on students with autism to overhaul high school sports in North Carolina, and would eliminate the NCHSAA by the fall of 2022.

On Thursday morning, July 22, the bill advanced another step, as the Senate Committee on Finance gave a favorable recommendation to the bill, paving the way for the bill to advance to the Committee on Rules and Operations of the Senate.

NCHSAA Commissioner Que Tucker stated that the association found out about House Bill 91 the morning the legislation was introduced, and noted that the organization has had very little time to digest everything that is in the bill.

“The General Assembly’s discussion today of HB 91 represents what we believe to be a full-scale attack on the ability and desire of the NCHSAA member schools to govern their own affairs as relates to high school athletics, education-based athletics. We believe that high school athletics in our state should not be a political issue. When you start peeling away or turning the pages of this bill, clearly there are politics involved in how the new Commission that they have mention would be established,” Tucker said in an opening statement during a Tuesday evening, July 20, media conference. “We want what is best for students in North Carolina, particularly the student-athletes in our program. We believe that many members of the General Assembly are motivated to that end as well. We have demonstrated our willingness to partner with the General Assembly, and we want to work towards our goal of being the national model for education-based athletics in the country.”

The NCHSAA is currently responsible for overseeing the rules and regulations for high school athletics, and also hosts state championship events.

With the passage of the bill, the new 17-member commission would take over oversight of high school athletics on the state level.

Nine members of the commission would be appointed to four-year terms by the governor, with four appointees each coming from both the General Assembly House Speaker as well as the Senate President Pro Tempore.

Under the bill, the NCHSAA would cease to exist — with a timeline as soon as the 2022-23 school year, and state high schools athletics would be governed through a designated organization by the state Board of Education.

The commission would operate under the umbrella of the Department of Administration, part of the state government, opposed to the NCHSAA, a private non-for-profit organization that has provided oversight for high school athletics in North Carolina for more than a century.

The bill in its current form would prohibit the commission from several actions, including soliciting grant funding and sponsorships for purposes other than state tournaments, providing grants to schools, providing scholarships to players, retaining gate receipts other than from the state tournament, controlling the intellectual property of schools, such as logos and mascots, and audio and visual rights to games, and delegating its statutory duties to a director.

A number of organizations have voiced opposition to the legislation, including the National Federation of High Schools, the North Carolina Coaches Association and the North Carolina Association of Athletic Directors, the latter two of which work extensively with the current NCHSAA in high school athletics.

“The NCHSAA has been one of the most respected associations in the NFHS for many years — developing programs with sustainability to ensure that participation opportunities remain available for generations of students to come. With visionary leaders in the past such as Charlie Adams (1984-2010), to its current executive director Que Tucker, the NCHSAA has crafted innovative programming such as its Student Services and Endowment Programs that have been emulated by other associations across the country,” a statement from the NFHS released on July 21 reads. “The programs of the association have been directed by the member schools in a fair and equitable manner — free from politically motivated initiatives — for the past century. The NCHSAA has established programs to ensure that the privilege of competing in high school sports is available to everyone in their member schools — and that everyone is treated in a fair and equitable manner.”

The NFHS also stated that in its current structure, the NCHSAA Board of Directors makes decisions that are “fair and equitable for the majority of student-athletes in its 427 member schools.”

“We believe that a state government commission empowered to run education-based sports would have different and less educationally sound motives,” stated NFHS. “For the benefit of the 200,000 participants in high school sports in North Carolina, we believe the NCHSAA and its Board of Directors are best served for directing these vital programs for high school student-athletes.”

The NCHSAA has drawn the attention of the state senate due to numerous concerns — including financial implications of the organization and whether it was legal and appropriate for a private organization to oversee high school athletics for public schools.

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(1) comment

thechaosaysmuuuu

Wait a minute... I thought that Republicans were all about *smaller* government... I mean they never ever seem to shut up about it, so what's this hypocritical BS?

Ohhhh right. I almost forgot. Unbridled and unapologetic hypocrisy is also one of the core tenets of modern republicanism!

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