Expanding the number of classifications to eight by 2025 and reviewing a troubling new report on ejections were among the major actions taken by the N.C. High School Athletic Association’s Board of Directors in its annual two-day winter meeting that wrapped up Thursday in Chapel Hill.
In one of the earliest actions taken by the board, they followed the guidance of a Realignment Ad Hoc committee and voted to expand to eight size classifications — from the current four — of schools beginning in 2025.
NCHSAA commissioner Que Tucker said this is a direction the association has been looking to head toward for years, dating back to the time when Davis Whitfield was the head of the NCHSAA.
Going to eight classes starting in 2025 will give the NCHSAA room to deal with the continuing growth of the association. Four new charter schools were added to the NCHSAA at this week’s meeting, with more growth likely in the near future.
The next NCHSAA realignment committee, which has yet to be selected, will be dealing with a host of challenges and needed the flexibility of eight classes to make it workable.
Many options could be considered by the committee, including having schools from multiple classes in a conference, or doing away with conferences completely in favor of a regional format.
While many people don’t like split conferences, Tucker said they solve a lot of geographical issues and allow schools to limit travel during the regular season.
Now that the realignment committee knows they will be dealing with eight classes, Tucker said they can start to plan. She added, however, that everything initially will be in Jell-O.
The association received troubling news on two fronts that could be related to actions taken by the state legislature limiting NCHSAA authority to level fines and to court corporate sponsors.
Through Nov. 10 there have been 469 ejections this year and 98 in the month of November. Most of the ejections were in soccer and football.
Tucker said she has no proof the ejections are the result of the NCHSAA not being able to fine schools for certain violations as a result of legislative action.
She blames a lot of it on society in general and people feeling entitled to do or say whatever they like.
“We must be diligent,’’ she said. “We can’t just assume coaches and players understand what good sportsmanship looks like.’’
More bad news came from a projected budget deficit of $806,000 for this year that could be tied to legislative action denying the NCHSAA the right to pursue corporate sponsors, which provide 32% of the association’s operating expenses.
NCHSAA President Chris Blanton, assistant superintendent of Watauga County Schools, said few businesses could withstand the loss of a third of their operating budget.
“We want to be able to offer the best experience for our student-athletes,’’ he said. “That takes money. To run championships. To pay staff. We’re definitely concerned.’’
Tucker also revealed a few of the details surrounding the plan to create a "final four" experience at the 2024 NCHSAA basketball championships for men and women, which will be played at Winston-Salem’s Lawrence Joel Veterans Memorial Coliseum.
Plans are fluid, but Tucker said the idea is to hold regional championship games for men and women Monday through Thursday. Some of the games will have to be played during the school day, with four games per day.
State championship games in all classes would be held Friday and Saturday.
“Basketball coaches for years have been asking for a final four format,’’ Tucker said. “We said to the board, ‘Let's give this a try.’ Joel presented itself as a great place to do it. I’m satisfied because we’ve been there before with other events.’’
As for the future and possible ongoing involvement by the state legislature, Tucker said, “The waters will be choppy, but we’ll do the best we can to keep the ship steered in the right direction.’’
In other developments:
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