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Changes on the way for NCHSAA

The North Carolina High School Athletic Association was thrown a curveball last week and the end result could be a major change in how high school sports are run.


In the early morning hours one day last week, the state House of Representatives passed a new bill that targets the administration of high school sports in North Carolina, and the Senate gave its approval just hours later that same morning.


If it becomes law, Senate Bill 452 would take away much of the NCHSAA’s authority and place it with the superintendent of public instruction and members of the North Carolina Board of Education.


The bill is now in the hands of Gov. Roy Cooper for consideration. The governor can sign it into law, veto it, or allow it to become law without his signature if he takes no action within a specific time period. That time period is winding down. 


"The Governor is concerned about this last minute legislation and he will review it carefully," a spokeswoman for Cooper said last week.


Even if Cooper, a Democrat, vetoes the bill, Republicans have super majorities in both the House and Senate, meaning they could override a veto without any Democratic support if all Republicans vote in favor.


The bill would strip the NCHSAA of its decision-making over student participation rules, including medical eligibility, academic standards, transfer requirements and many other areas.


“I just want to see high school athletics continue in North Carolina and kids continue to have the opportunity to play high school sports,” said Dr. Stephen Gainey, the Randolph County Schools System Superintendent and a member of the NCHSAA Board. “High School athletics are very special to me and we are going to work through whatever we need to work through and do whatever it takes to make sure kids have the opportunity to participate in high school sports. We’ll work through it and do what’s right for the kids.”


If the bill is passed, there may be some restructuring of the NCHSAA organization. It could remain intact, but they would have to report to the state superintendent.


This latest motion comes as a bit of a surprise to the NCHSAA. House Bill 91, which was passed in 2021, required the NCHSAA to enter into a memorandum of understanding with the state Board of Education in order to continue administering high school sports in North Carolina. Both parties agreed and the two entities have completed one year of a four-year agreement.


The new legislation could change that agreement. It would require the NCHSAA comply with the following in any memorandum of understanding:

    — Enforce all rules adopted by the state board without changes.— NCHSAA cannot adopt a new rule unless it has published the proposed rule and provided opportunity for public comment. All new rules must be provided to the state superintendent within 15 days.— NCHSAA handbook, student participation rules, gameplay rules, appeals process, and fees must be published for free on the NCHSAA website.— Agree to adopt requirements for membership of the nonprofit board that require equal representation on the board from each education district and a member appointed by the state superintendent.— Adopt an ethics policy that requires board members to avoid conflicts of interest.— Enter into contracts with individual schools as to the monetary requirements for participation.— Agree to reduce annual fees to participating schools by a minimum of 20% when the total fund balance for the administering organization and any associated entity is 250% of the total expenses.— Agree to retain no more than 33% of the net proceeds of any state tournament game.— Agree to be audited annually. 

NCHSAA Commissioner Que Tucker told the schools that the NCHSAA is in a "storm" right now, noting that the regional meetings held have a different feeling.


"We're in a storm right now, but what I'm trying to do with our staff is keep them encouraged,” Tucker said. “We'll go slow and steady as we go through this storm, but we're not going to stop because if we do, we'll stay in the storm.”


Tucker said the legislation will negatively impact the schools and the students who participate in athletic programs across North Carolina.


"This bill that is on the governor's desk will be devastating to you. I don't care what you think about Que Tucker, but it's you the membership who will be devastated,” she said. “You may not realize it now, but if you read what's in the bill, it will be devastating.”