A state championship event headed to Fayetteville and an update on the complicated process of realigning the state’s high school conferences were the major topics of discussion at last week’s Region 4 meeting of the North Carolina High School Athletic Association held at the Cumberland County Schools Educational Resource Center.
NCHSAA commissioner Que Tucker and members of her staff spent the morning discussing the business of the association and shared a variety of information with the athletic directors, coaches and superintendents in attendance. The region includes high schools in 11 counties in the Fayetteville area as far west as Richmond and Montgomery, north to Harnett and Lee and south to Robeson, Bladen and Columbus.
The biggest surprise of the day came when Tucker announced that this year’s NCHSAA volleyball state championships will be temporarily moving from their home at North Carolina State’s Reynolds Coliseum and coming to Fayetteville State University’s Capel Arena.
The Wolfpack has a women’s basketball home game scheduled Sunday, Nov. 10, against UNC-Wilmington that would have cut into the time needed to get Reynolds Coliseum ready for basketball the day after the volleyball championships.
The volleyball championships are scheduled Saturday, Nov. 9.
Tucker said the NCHSAA explored a variety of other places where they had previously held state championship events, but none of them were either suitable or available for the volleyball championships.
When the NCHSAA contacted Fayetteville State, the school expressed interest. Tucker said Fayetteville State has an away football game that day, at Winston-Salem State, and there were no other on-campus conflicts that would prevent hosting the volleyball.
“You go where you’re wanted and we are excited about the possibility,’’ Tucker said. “Capel Arena is a wonderful facility and we look forward to it.’’
Vernon Aldridge, student activities director of the Cumberland County Schools, said the school system has an excellent working relationship with Fayetteville State. Capel Arena is a regular home for the county’s high school swimmers and has also hosted both the NCHSAA Eastern Regional basketball tournament and the finals of the annual Cumberland County Holiday Classic basketball tournament.
“Anytime you get to host a state championship event it’s great for the local area,’’ Aldridge said. “We have a great working relationship with Mike King (assistant athletic director at Fayetteville State) that will allow us to put this on short notice.’’
The headache that is realignment of the NCHSAA’s conferences is about to begin anew after the association’s Board of Directors decided to put it on hold at its meeting last spring.
The NCHSAA got into the business of deciding what schools play in which league back in 1985-86 Tucker said when schools drew up their own leagues and left some member schools with no place to play.
Now, realignment is ordered by the NCHSAA bylaws every four years.
Because there was some potential for major changes in how realignment works, last spring’s board decided to delay the process to allow additional information about realignment to be gathered.
The initial step will be to create a special realignment committee which will number about 25 people from across the state who will come up with the official plan for realignment that will be presented to the full board of directors near the end of the process.
Schools had until the end of last week’s series of eight regional meetings around the state to submit potential names to serve on the committee from each region.
Region 4 has two representatives on the NCHSAA Board of Directors for 2019-20, Gray’s Creek athletic director Troy Lindsey and Cape Fear High School principal Brian Edkins.
They will work with the president and vice-president of the NCHSAA to narrow the list of nominees for the realignment committee from Region 4. When the committee is picked, each region only gets two members. Additional members on the realignment committee will come from the state coaches and athletic director’s associations and the state department of public instruction.
Tucker said a special meeting of the board of directors will likely have to convene in late February or early March of 2021 to hear the final report from the committee.
One of the major questions that the committee will likely have to wrestle with is whether to change the number of classifications the state has. For years the NCHSAA has operated with four classifications based on school enrollment: 4-A, 3-A, 2-A and 1-A.
The idea of adding a fifth classification for the largest schools, 5-A, has been discussed but never implemented.
Even if the committee thinks 5-A is an good idea, it can only suggest it to Tucker and the NCHSAA board. A change would require a call for a vote of the membership to decide if a fifth classification can be added, or if any change can be made in the number of classifications.
One important note Tucker added regarding the average daily membership figures is the numbers the NCHSAA gets from the State Department of Public Instruction that are the enrollment of each school in the state.
Tucker said the NCHSAA is guided, but not bound by, the ADMs in determining conference membership.
Here are some other items of interest from Monday’s regional meeting:
• The sites have been determined for this fall’s NCHSAA football championship games. The 4-A and 4-AA will play at the University of North Carolina’s Kenan Stadium. The 3-A and 3-AA will play at North Carolina State’s Carter-Finley Stadium. The 2-A and 2-AA will be at Wake Forest’s Groves Stadium and the 1-A and 1-AA at Duke University’s Wallace Wade Stadium.
• For the 2018-19 school year, the NCHSAA assessed 154 penalties resulting in $63,950 fines with 11 teams winding up ineligible for the state playoffs. The list included seven football teams, three boys’ basketball teams and one girls basketball team.
To date in 2019, there have been 39 penalties with $16,150 in fines and one team ineligible for the playoffs.
• The NCHSAA is joining the number of state associations who are beginning to feel the squeeze on the availability of high school officials to call games. The average age of officials in the state is from 59 to 60. The NCHSAA noted that some states like Tennessee have resorted to playing high school football on multiple nights each week to spread games out because of the officiating shortage.
• Tina Bratcher, administrative assistant to Vernon Aldridge, was named the 2018 winner of the NCHSAA Region 4 Special Person award. The presentation was delayed a year because year’s meeting was canceled due to the hurricane.
• The NCHSAA has established an education-based athletics grant program for its member schools. Any person on the staff of an NCHSAA member school may submit an application for the grant.
The only criteria is that the money must be used for unmet needs facing the student athletes at a particular school.
The application is available at the NCHSAA website, NCHSAA.org, and can be found under “Fundraising and Grant Opportunities” in the School Central section of the website.
The deadline to apply this year is Nov. 30.