North Carolina Senate Republicans shelved a proposal late last week to end the North Carolina High School Athletic Association’s oversight of interscholastic sports, replacing it with constraints upon the group’s finances and transparency in decision-making activities.
As reported by The Associated Press, a bill approved last month by the Senate education committee would have created a new state athletic commission, its members chosen by the governor and legislative leaders, to take over the association’s work.
Complaints from Democrats and association allies, including the National Federation of State High School Associations, that it would inject partisanship into high school sports and effectively end the NCHSAA, which was founded in 1913. The nonprofit group, connected to the University of North Carolina until becoming independent in 2010, has been subject to criticisms in recent years from lawmakers and constituents about its authority and sizable assets, which had approached $42 million by June 2020.
The amended proposal, which is still opposed by top association leaders, would essentially direct the State Board of Education to enter a formal, written agreement with the association by Oct. 15 on how it would administer athletics going forward, according to the AP.
“We heard you and [in] this bill, we seek to reform, not destroy,” Senator Vickie Sawyer, an Iredell County Republican and bill author, told the education committee before it was approved on a voice vote. “It simply sets a standard for the operations of a vendor that works for the state. This bill just sets up a regulatory framework with reporting requirements.”
The measure makes several demands in the “memorandum of understanding.” The association would be subject to state public records and open meeting laws, and there would be limits on its share of state tournament revenues and on fees upon the 400-plus member schools.
Association game and penalty rules would be subject to public comment and could be blocked by the State Board of Education, the AP notes. Appeals would be handled by an independent commission appointed by the board, not the association. And the NCHSAA could not restrict the recording of state tournament games by parents of athletes or school employees — a complaint by families during the COVID-19 pandemic when they could not attend in person.
Unlike the previous version, private schools would still be allowed to participate in association athletics.
Association leaders, including Commissioner Que Tucker, said Thursday the bill is too prescriptive and does not acknowledge reforms that NCHSAA leaders started in the spring.
“We’ve always had an informal memorandum of understanding and we wish to continue that work,” Tucker told the committee, as reported by the AP. “But what we would like to be able to do is to continue that without coercion, without political influence.”