The “long” session of the General Assembly, which began in January, is now in its eighth month. Meanwhile, lawmakers have sparked numerous fights – most of them expected – over COVID protocols, curriculum standards, and critical race theory; energy regulatory reform and tax changes. And there’s not even a budget yet, so there’s still a fight ahead with Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper.
But one fight we didn’t really expect to see was the one the GA chose with the 108-year-old NC High School Sports Association. Lawmakers who have spent the last few years removing power and authority from towns and villages now want to dissolve the association that governs high school sports and make it part of the state bureaucracy.
Why? Lawmakers say the independent authority that governs more than a dozen sports lacks transparency, accountability and grows rich at the expense of schools. They are particularly bristling with an endowment of $ 27.8 million. Total assets exceed $ 41 million, the largest for such groups in the country.
But the proposed changes also appear to be driven by the personal frustrations of some lawmakers who say their local high schools are paying too much for vendors, too fined for breaking the rules, and too harshly punished when teams or players misbehave.
Reaction and overreaction
One of the lawmakers leading the “reform” charge is Senator Tom McInnis, whose district includes Moore County. Last month he took an existing bill from the House, gutted it and replaced it with wording destroying the association. In its place: an NC Interschool Sports Commission, which would be overseen by the National Board of Education and cover college and high school sports.
The commission would consist of 17 members appointed by the Governor, the Speaker of the Senate and the Speaker of the House. Rules and policies regarding athletics would be created by the State Board of Education, and the commission would oversee compliance.
This commission would include the roles that are currently on the association’s board of directors: coaches, athletic directors, school administrators and school superintendents or assistant superintendents.
The new changes would eliminate fines – a key enforcement mechanism now – for a system of “demerits” that would lead to additional penalties depending on the seriousness of the infractions.
McInnis has his own beef with the association: what he sees as unfair punishment from the Anson High football team for taking part in a fight a few years ago that caused him to miss the playoffs.
“I think they (NCHSAA) did it just because they could,” McInnis said in an interview with HighSchoolOT.com. “Anson County is a small, rural school district… these kids don’t have a voice, but their senator has a voice, and this senator is not going to sit idly by.”
The association did itself a disservice when its executive director, Que Tucker, a black woman, gave an interview claiming that her race and gender were behind the reform legislation.
“I’m disappointed,” she said, “right now our politics have fallen to such a level that we now think it’s okay to politicize education-based athletics at the level of the community. secondary ”.
It is possible to improve the governance of high school sports, but dissolving a 108-year-old private organization and integrating it into the state bureaucracy is folly and contrary to the Conservatives’ vision of a smaller government. This is clearly an overreaction.
In recent weeks, the two sides have gone behind closed doors to discuss the issues, indicating that McInnis’ nuclear bomb ploy could be a negotiating tactic.
The high school athletics programs in this state have worked well for over 100 years without the heavy hand of the General Assembly. “We know there is politics,” Roy Turner, president of the Athletic Directors Association said in a statement, “but in this situation politics and athletics should not meet.”