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High school sports: Legislators move to dismantle association that oversees athletics

Bulldog Easter tournament moved to Monday-Wednesday because of rainy forecast


A trio of North Carolina state senators, joined by several other Republicans in the General Assembly, have given the N.C. High School Athletic Association an Easter basket full of rotten eggs.

Sen. Tom McInnis, along with Sens. Todd Johnson and Vickie Sawyer, introduced a bill in the state Senate late Wednesday that would effectively dismantle the High School Athletic Association and leave it toothless to administer athletics in the state and hand out penalties to schools that break the rules.

McInnis represents parts of Cumberland County.

In comments made to the High SchoolOT website, NCHSAA Commissioner Que Tucker said no one at the association was contacted about the latest Senate bill. She told Nick Stevens of High SchoolOT the new bill is “very frustrating” and “very disappointing” after association leaders met with legislators two years ago to work out an understanding that left the organization in charge of public school sports.

McInnis and company don’t think there’s a need for any kind of oversight in high school sports. I’ve covered it full time and part time for nearly half a century. Let me explain something: There are people out there who break rules. And if there are no rules to break, they are simply going to be emboldened.

In fact, after the last raid McInnis and company did on the NCHSAA a couple of years ago, the rule-breaking has already begun.

I share this from Joe Franks, one of the leaders of the N.C. Coaches Association, who wrote a column in an NCCA newsletter:

The High School Athletic Association requires its coaches to be informed about rules in their sport by taking an online test. Failure to take the test used to result in a small fine.

In their last attack on the association, senators stripped away the power of the organization to assess that fine. During last fall’s regional meetings of schools around the state, Franks noted with concern that coaches were not taking the rules sessions seriously now that no fine was required.

As he put it, “This has become kind of like a ‘We told you so’ situation, and that is unfortunate.”

Take this relatively minor infraction and multiply it times 100 if the new bill proposed by McInnis, Sawyer and Johnson is passed into law. And chances are good it will be.

In case you have not been reading the news, state Rep. Tricia Cotham of Mecklenburg County, who ran and was elected as a Democrat, this week announced she is switching parties and becoming a Republican.

Her move now gives the Republicans a veto-proof majority in the House. So unless some members of the majority break ranks and don’t rubber-stamp this horrible bill, it could become law without a whimper from the losing side.

It’s long past time that McInnis, Sawyer and Johnson admit that this bill is a gross overreach and a terrible mistake, dating back to an incident in 2019 when Anson County High School was kicked out of the state football playoffs for violating a rule about the number of players that can be ejected for fighting in a game or season.

The rule was put in place by the NCHSAA board of directors, all educators themselves, to deal with a serious problem of escalating fighting at games.

That’s what led McInnis, with the aid of his associates, to go after the NCHSAA.

I remind McInnis and friends of a quote from then Anson football coach Ralph Jackson, who in an interview with Genevieve Curtis of WSOC-TV said the following:

“If you did something, own up to it. Be a man about it. I can stand in front of you right now and tell you, my guys made a mistake.’’

So did McInnis, Sawyer and Johnson. It’s time to admit it, apologize and pass actual legislation that will benefit the people of North Carolina instead of bullying a service-minded organization like the NCHSAA.

Earl’s Pearls

  • The score is Weather Forecast 1, Terry Sanford baseball 0.

After seeing grim forecasts for rain this weekend, Bulldog baseball coach Sam Guy finally made the tough decision to move the annual Bulldog Easter tournament to Monday through Wednesday, April 11-12.

As usual, this year’s tournament will feature some solid competition, with multiple teams in the field ranked in various statewide and regional high school baseball polls.

Monday’s games include South View vs. Pinecrest at 10 a.m., Terry Sanford vs. Midway at 1 p.m., Richmond Senior vs. Wayne Country Day at 4 p.m., and East Bladen vs. Western Harnett at 7 p.m.

On Tuesday, the losers of the first two games meet at 10 a.m.; losers of the second two games play at 1 p.m.; the first two winners battle at 4 p.m.; and the second pair of winners meets at 7 p.m.

Consolation games will be at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. Wednesday, with the third-place game at 4 p.m. and championship game at 7 p.m.

Guy said he’s tried to match the teams up as best as possible to avoid mismatches and also to keep teams in the same conference from facing each other until the championship game if possible.

“For the most part, I think we do a good job to provide good baseball games for fans,’’ he said. “Our concession stand is awesome.’’

Guy said next year, he’s considering a family-oriented fundraiser one day to invite parents and children to the field to enjoy the concession stand while offering children a chance to play catch or run the bases.

“It helps our booster club and our team,’’ Guy says of the tournament. “That’s what it’s all about from a fan perspective: enjoying the atmosphere.’’

  • After serving in a variety of roles, Pine Forest’s David May is returning to his old job as the school’s head boys basketball coach.

Since stepping down seven years ago, May spent some time coaching the Pine Forest girls, and for the past four years he has served as an assistant coach for Jimmy Peaden.

Peaden has decided to step down to spend more time with his family, opening the door for May to take the job again.

“The principal and the athletic director asked if I would do it,’’ May said. “I started thinking about it and said, ‘Let’s give it another shot.’ Here I am.’’

He comes to the job with eyes wide open and realizes some things have changed since his last stint as head coach. 

“We have to do the best we can with what we’ve got,’’ May said. “Hopefully the kids will want to stay. It’s a challenge. You never know what’s going to come in and what’s going to go out.’’

He doesn’t think the success of a team has any major influence on a player’s decision to go to another school. “I think it has to do with kids seeing opportunities,’’ he said. “The system one school runs might be better for them than the other. Parents get upset about playing time. It could be a whole bunch of stuff.’’

He feels Peaden left the Trojan program on solid ground and thinks the future is bright.

“Pine Forest is going to be Pine Forest,’’ he said. “I think we’re one of the better programs in the county.’’

May said he adjusts to the situation but keeps a core of things he likes to do as a coach. “I’m excited about it,’’ he said. “We’ll see what happens.’’

Earl Vaughan Jr. is on Twitter @EarlVaughanJr.

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Cumberland County, sports, athletics, baseball