Spring practices suspended

Watauga’s Jacob Dilley makes a play at home against Alexander Central. Neither team is allowed to practice and their seasons have been suspended by the NCHSAA because of the Covid-19.

RALEIGH — North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper announced March 14 that all public schools will be closed for the next two weeks.

The North Carolina State Athletic Association already suspended its sponsored events until April 6 when the issue will be revisited. In a phone conference call on March 13, NCHSAA Director Que Tucker did not necessarily say that if schools were closed indefinitely, athletic events would not be revisited. She said that it is likely that athletics would be closed if schools were closed for the semester, but left the door open that athletics could be brought back even if schools were closed.

“What we would have to do is to delve into what that mandate is,” Tucker said March 13. “If he says ‘All school is canceled,’ does that mean all school and all school extra-curricular activities which would include intraschool athletics? We would have to have an understanding what was meant by then.”

Athletics from the professional, collegiate and prep levels have been suspended or canceled nationwide. Major events such as the NCAA men’s and women’s basketball tournament championships, the Masters golf tournament and the NBA season were all shut down because of COVID-19.

The current suspension of athletics included the state boys’ and girls’ basketball championships. Freedom’s boys’ basketball team was to play in the 3-A state title game, but that game was suspended indefinitely. Tucker did not know if it would be rescheduled.

One possible solution to the problem is not to play the game, but instead declare a western champion and an eastern champion. That method of declaring football state champions was used in the 1960s, as Appalachian High School was a western football champion under the guidance of coach Jack Groce.

“The decision we made to postpone the state basketball championships was not one that we took lightly,” Tucker said in an opening statement. “It only came after we felt we had exhausted all other options, recognizing the gravity of the certainty of the threat we all face. The decision was made through consultation with our directors, the host facilities and their administrators.”Sports programs will also not be allowed to practice or have coaches work with athletes on skill improvement until April 6. Tucker said some programs may gain an advantage over others that may not be able to hold practice sessions during that time.

She also said allowing sports teams to practice, but shutting down other activities such as theater rehearsals, choir practice and not allowing groups of students to take field trips would not be fair to those students.

“We finally got to a point where we said, ‘Look, we need to go all in with this,’” Tucker said. “These athletes are, even though they are outdoors, many will congregate in their locker rooms. That social distancing sometimes is not possible in a locker room. So, we just made the decision that we’re going to just stop it all.”

Tucker said extending the season through March 13 gave coaches the chance to explain to their players the seriousness of the situation the reason why the season and practices were suspended. She said the NCHSAA had addressed the situation several weeks ago, but the discussions intensified around March 11.

“We felt at this time to leave the option open to our coaches and administrators and school personnel to provide the athletes competing in spring sports an opportunity to complete a plan through (March 13) and (March 14) understanding the difficulty facing many programs suddenly altering the season.”

Tucker said no decision has been made on how the scheduling of spring sports would go, saying the NCHSAA would look at what the spring calendar may look like this week.

“We may not be able to start … April 6,” Tucker said. “What is the latest we believe we could get some competition in that maybe could lead to a state championship? We don’t have any idea at this time.”

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