The N.C. High School Athletics Association needs to look through the windshield, not the rear-view mirror as it plans for the future.
Davis Whitfield, the NCHSAA commissioner, recently told an overflow group of area coaches, athletic directors, superintendents and principals that the association should appreciate its 100-year heritage, but embrace the future.
“We need to continually look at new ideas and ways of doing things,” Whitfield said. “It is important for us to always seek the best way to move forward.”
The N.C. High School Athletics Association held its annual regional meeting Thursday at N.C. State’s Vaughn Towers. High school athletics directors and principals from area schools met there with NCHSAA leaders. The regional meetings were designed for the NCHSAA staff to get feedback from the schools.
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One of the primary items for discussion will be the next conference realignment. The NCHSAA places schools in conferences once every four years. Leagues change as schools open and close or increase and decrease in enrollment.
Among the options being discussed is adding separate leagues for football. The NCHSAA also will look at the number and the size of classifications.
The next conference realignment is scheduled to begin in 2017, but the planning has started. The alignment process takes about a year, including a period for schools to appeal their placement.
Schools are placed in conferences for four-year periods, although schools have the opportunity to request a conference change after two years. (e.g., 4A East Chapel Hill is smaller than some 3A schools and could consider dropping down a class.)
Whitfield asked for a show of hands of the regional representatives who gathered at Vaughn Towers about whether the association should use three, four or five classifications in the next alignment. The NCHSAA currently uses four classifications.
The four and five classification proposals drew the most support.
The school leaders also showed interest in dividing the four classes with 20 percent of the schools in the 1A, 30 percent in the 2A, 30 percent in the 3A and 20 percent in the 4A. The current plan is 25-25-25-25.
The unequal split would reduce the variances in school enrollments within a classification.
The association administers high school athletics at 402 North Carolina public schools and non-boarding parochial schools. Among the NCHSAA’s duties are organizing playoffs, establishing eligibility and safety regulations and placing the schools in conferences.
Concussions: Que Tucker, the associate commissioner, reminded the group that the Gfeller-Waller Act, which establishes protocols for handling concussions, is a law not a recommendation.
Every NCHSAA athlete and a parent must sign a form verifying that they have received information of the symptoms and treatment of concussions before the athlete can participate in a practice.
An athlete who has concussion symptoms must obtain a return to play authorization from a medical doctor before being allowed to play or practice.
Every school must have and post at every athletic venue an emergency action plan that has been reviewed by a medical professional.
The Department of Public Instruction recently found 13 school systems in violation of the law. There currently is no penalty, but DPI has asked the NCHSAA to develop fines or sanctions for violations.
The NCHSAA already has a $500 fine if a coach conducts a practice before completing a concussion awareness test.
State championships: The state softball championships will be held next spring at a college facility, perhaps N.C. State.
Tucker said Raleigh’s Walnut Creek Softball Complex had been a wonderful site for the softball finals, but the NCHSAA plans to move to a college facility to create a more equitable playoff between baseball and softball.
The NCHSAA also is considering moving its dual-team wrestling finals to a neutral site rather than use high school facilities.
This year’s football championships will be held at Wake Forest and N.C. State. The University of North Carolina usually is the site of some of the title games, but is unavailable this year.
Ejections: Tucker reported 489 athletes were ejected during the last school year. Players can be ejected for fighting (145), profanity (100), flagrant contact (98), confronting officials (88) or taunting/ baiting (35).
Any coach who is ejected or has a player ejected must take a course on teaching and modeling behavior. Any athlete who is ejected has to complete the National Federation’s sportsmanship course.
Off-season football: The NCHSAA has received a request to allow football to have 10 days of non-contact practices in the spring and eliminate the current off-season skills development sessions, which limit the number of players at each workout but are held from December until the end of the school year.
Television: The NCHSAA is in discussions with current media sponsor Time Warner Cable. One item of discussion is telecasting live events during the regular season.
The NCHSAA has shied away in the past from televising events during the regular season except on a delayed basis.
Honors: Dr. Tim Taft of the University of North Carolina received the Commissioner’s Choice Award. Taft was at the forefront of the arthroscopy revolution that radically improved medical treatment of ligament and tendon damage.
Green Hope High cross country and baseball coach Mike Miragliuolo was presented the Charlie Adams Distinguished Service Award, which is named for a former NCHSAA executive director.
Miragliuolo’s teams have won six state cross country titles and six baseball conference titles.
The Carolina Mudcats received the NCHSAA Special Person Award. The Mudcats annually host some of the NCHSAA baseball playoffs.