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Sports

The adjusted NC public high school sports calendar explained
Condensed schedules bring more overlap
 
Published Saturday, August 15, 2020 12:33 pm
by Herbert L. White | The Charlotte Post

PHOTO | HERBERT L. WHITE
With no fall sports at North Carolina's public high schools, the earliest participation is for cross country and volleyball is Nov. 4. Basketball practice opens Dec. 7 and football starts Feb. 8.

The earliest sports will return to North Carolina public high schools is November.


Cross country and volleyball practice are scheduled to open Nov. 4 and competition starts on Nov. 16 according to the state athletic association’s revised sports calendar. The most lucrative programs, boys’ basketball and football, start practice Dec. 7 and Feb. 8 respectively. Every sport will be limited in the number of regular season contests, with basketball held to 14 games and football seven in keeping with guidance from the state Department of Health and Human Services to limit spread of the coronavirus, which causes COVID-19.


“We didn't put this calendar together based on assumptions,” NCHSAA Commissioner Que Tucker said. “We put the calendar together based on the guidelines from DHHS as it relates to how we could perhaps play sports. We know that this is very fluid. … We hope that the conditions in our state as it relates to this pandemic, we’ll have gotten to that point whenever we hear Dr. [Mandy] Cohen talk, she will be satisfied that those percentages and the numbers are where they need to be in North Carolina.”


Cohen is DHHS secretary.


While there are no guarantees high school sports will take place, the association’s plan allows some clarity should the pandemic subsides in North Carolina. Here are some takeaways and what they mean to students, coaches, administrators and parents.


• Postseason play is an iffy proposition.
The association and stakeholders have had conversations about playoffs, Tucker said, but no concrete plan has been developed. The goal as of now is to get seasons underway when it’s safe to do so.


“After the regular season ends, we have not put those in place, but as it relates to our having some discussion about additional contests, we have had those discussions, but they have not taken any concrete shape at this point,” she told reporters Wednesday. “We will continue to look at that and then work with our board to try to see if that is something we would be able to allow.”


• All sports schedules will be curtailed, including football and basketball campaigns. Football, they closest thing to a revenue-generating sport for many schools, will be limited to seven games. NCHSAA has yet to require schools to play league games exclusively as a concession to non-conference rivalries.


“We haven’t zeroed in on whether it has to be all conference games,” Tucker said. “We understand that every member school plays in a conference, unless they're an independent member, but they all play in a conference and conference games are always important. Would we like for everybody to be able to play every member of their conference? Absolutely, we would like that. But as we move forward, we want to be very flexible and we want to remain open as to how we look at that so that as we make decisions about what the playoffs would look like, who could qualify for those playoffs, then we would certainly look at it.


“With that in mind, we need to have this many conference games of all we could say that it doesn't matter how many conference games are involved, that the conferences could then make the determination as to who would qualify into the playoffs.”


Moving to Phase 3 reopening won’t move schedules forward.


If Gov. Roy Cooper lifts more restrictions on mass gatherings, NCHSAA won’t plunge ahead with an accelerated or widened calendar. Conversations with school districts, athletic directors and health experts will be needed before adopting any adjustment.

• State and local officials will make the call on fan attendance.


Cooper has wide latitude over how many people can gather at athletic events, and Tucker is convinced that will continue.


“I think at some point in time, the governor is going to have to play a large role in how many people can gather outdoors once we get that information,” she said, “and if it is such that we could gather larger groups in a stadium and that there is flexibility to be able to help determine that, then we will participate with our member schools in terms of ‘here's what we think you ought to do,’ Tucker said. “But I think the first step has to be taken from the governor's office from the Department of Health and Human Services as it relates to gatherings outdoors.”


• There’ll be a lot of schedule overlap.


Lacrosse, boys’ soccer and football, for example, will occupy space on the calendar and in terms of facilities. There’s usually some overlap every year – think football and volleyball playoffs and the start of boys’ and girls’ basketball – but Tucker acknowledges it’ll be more pronounced.


“We have to make those adjustments,” she said. “What I just want to remind everybody is this: We hope that this is a one-year blip on our radar, and that we will have to make some sacrifices.”

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