Lawmakers seek to control NC High School Athletic Association, not suppress it – Salisbury Post
By Gary D. Robertson
RALEIGH – Senate Republicans on Thursday dropped a proposal to end oversight of interschool sports by the North Carolina High School Athletic Association, replacing it with constraints on group finances and transparency in decision-making activities .
A bill approved last month by the Senate Education Committee would have created a new state sports commission, its members chosen by the governor and legislative leaders, to take over the work of the association.
The measure was revamped, however, after complaints from Democrats and association allies that it would inject partisanship into high school sports and effectively end the NCHSAA, which began in 1913. The goal group nonprofit, linked to the University of North Carolina until becoming independent in 2010, has come under criticism in recent years from lawmakers and voters for its authority and considerable assets.
The amended proposal, which top association leaders still oppose, would essentially order the State Board of Education to reach a formal written agreement with the association by October 15 on how it would administer the athletics in the future.
“We have heard you and (in) this bill we are looking to reform, not destroy,” Senator Vickie Sawyer, Iredell County Republican and author of the bill, told the education committee. before it is approved by a voice vote. “It just sets a standard for the operations of a supplier that works for the Crown … this bill simply sets out a regulatory framework with reporting requirements.”
But the measure requires several elements in the “memorandum of understanding”. Like a government agency, the association would be subject to state public records and open meeting laws. There would be limits on its share of state tournament revenue and on the fees of the more than 400 member schools.
The rules of the game and association penalty are said to be the subject of public comment and could be blocked by the State Board of Education. Appeals would be handled by an independent commission appointed by the board, not by the association. And the NCHSAA couldn’t restrict the recording of state tournament games by parents of athletes or school employees – a complaint filed by families during the COVID-19 pandemic when they couldn’t not attend in person. Unlike the previous version, private schools could still participate in association athletics.
“This legislation creates an atmosphere in which an organization can focus on the programming and organization of the games and the administration,” said Senator Michael Lazzara, Onslow County Republican and committee member. “I think it’s good for the state. I think it’s good for parents. I think it’s good for schools.
Association leaders, including Commissioner Que Tucker, said Thursday the bill was too prescriptive and failed to recognize reforms that NCHSAA leaders launched in the spring.
“We have always had an informal memorandum of understanding and we are keen to continue this work,” Tucker told the committee. “But what we would like to be able to do is continue this without coercion, without political influence.”
Colin Fegeley, athletic director at Green Level High School in Wake County, said he was “struggling to find many aspects of the bill that really put student athletes first.”
Senators traded verbal blows over whether Tucker and other board executives had contributed to the latest legislation. Senate Republicans met privately with Tucker and other NCHSAA leaders after the previous bill was unveiled and voted on by the education committee.
But much of the negotiations on the latest version took place with the State Board of Education, Sawyer said, because “respectively, I don’t know that it’s really important to get the contractor’s opinion on this. what should the contract be ”. Senator Gladys Robinson, a Democrat from Guilford County, said it was a bad move that encourages partisanship. Yet most members of the State Council are appointed by Democratic Governor Roy Cooper.
Senator Jay Chaudhuri, a Democrat from Wake County, suggested lawmakers downplay mandates and let the association and the board of education work out a deal. Otherwise, he said, “the unintended consequence of the bill could ultimately lead to the demise” of the association.
The bill now goes to another committee before it hits the floor of the Senate. Formal support from the House is also needed before he goes to Governor Cooper’s office.