QueTuckerCHAPEL HILL - The voting session at Thursday’s winter meeting of the N.C. High School Athletic Association Board of Directors lasted less than an hour. But during that time, the 16 voting members made significant changes to off-season football practice and added important tweaks to the NCHSAA’s playoff qualification rules.
Fayetteville got some unpleasant news during the meeting as it was announced, as previously feared, it will be losing a portion of the 4-A Eastern Regional basketball tournament next March.
Football coaches learned their sport will now be treated like all others in the NCHSAA, allowing participation of all prospective players in offseason workouts.
The workout policy had previously been changed for other sports, but football was still limited to a maximum of 21 players practicing per day in the offseason, save in the spring when they had the option to do that or have a limited period when they could work with the entire squad. Under the new rule, coaches can conduct full practice in the offseason with no body-to-body contact. If the players wear any equipment that requires certification during the practice, an athletic trainer or first responder must be on site.
“There will be those concerned in the smaller schools, especially those that share athletes,’’ said NCHSAA commissioner Que Tucker. “We encourage athletic directors, principals and coaches to sit down, work out calendars and charts where those athletes can be shared and at the same time still get in some work in the weight room.
“It’s all about skill development. They will have those opportunities while looking out for health and safety.’’
The playoff changes were prompted by numerous complaints from this year’s football playoffs. Some teams with good records were left out while some with poor ones, notably a one-win South Caldwell team, got a No. 1 seed and a first-round bye thanks to playing in a conference composed of teams from two classifications. The new rule reads that to be seeded No. 1, the highest finishing team in its half of a split conference must finish in the top three and/or have an overall winning percentage of .500 or better. If it doesn’t, it will be seeded with at-large teams. All at-large teams will be seeded based on conference finish, then by using MaxPreps rankings.
The NCHSAA said it will use what it calls adjusted MaxPreps rankings in future seeding after learning that margin of victory plays a role in determining a school’s MaxPreps ranking.
“We don’t ever want to be in a situation where we have folks running up the score because they think it will help their ranking,’’ Tucker said. 
Up & Coming Weekly reported in September during the NCHSAA Region 4 meeting in Fayetteville that the NCHSAA was considering moving part of the 4-A Eastern Regional basketball tournament to another site. Tucker confirmed that during Thursday’s board meeting when it was announced some of next year’s games would be held at East Carolina University’s Williams Arena at Minges Coliseum in Greenville.
Last year’s regional finals were held at Fayetteville State’s Capel Arena and Methodist University’s Riddle Center. Capel will again serve as a site for some of the 2018 games, but the tournament will not return to Methodist.
“We loved being at Methodist, but size-wise we had some challenges,’’ Tucker said. Methodist hosted the girls’ games last year, and when Clinton’s fans filled the 1,300-seat building and overflowed onto the court the NCHSAA had to give thought to moving elsewhere.
Tucker said no decision has been made on how the 2018 regional finals will be divided between the two locations. “We could be in a situation where we’ve got boys and girls from the same school,’’ she said, suggesting it’s possible each location could host boys’ and girls’ games in different classifications.
In other news from Thursday’s meeting:
• J.J. White was unanimously approved as the new regional supervisor of boys’ and girls’ lacrosse officials for the Southeastern Athletic Officials Association.
• The following statement will be added to the NCHSAA Handbook: “The NCHSAA will have zero tolerance within the confines of an NCHSAA event for the following: profanity of any kind, inappropriate language, racial or ethnic slurs, sexist or homophobic language.’’ This applies to coaches, athletes and spectators.
• Coaches and players who receive two ejections for what the NCHSAA defines as “unacceptable behavior” will be suspended from all sports for the rest of that sport season. The full list of offenses covered is in section 2.4.2 of the current handbook and includes things like fighting, leaving the bench to participate in a fight, biting, taunting and spitting.
• Ticket price increases for playoffs and championships in all sports were approved. The amount of the increase was not announced during the meeting.
• All wrestlers will receive their two-pound allowance qualification on Dec. 25.
• In school year 2016-17, $1,504,145.09 was distributed to member schools of the NCHSAA. Over the past seven years, $8,492,585.29 has been distributed.
Photo: Que Tucker, NCHSAA commissioner

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