The N.C. High School Athletic Association board of directors worked through lunch and through dinner on Tuesday as it wrestled with issues relating to football practice, realignment and the basketball playoffs, but by Wednesday morning everything was set for near unanimous consent on issues that had provoked daylong discussions the day before.
The NCHSAA board set a 60-minute limit per week on live contact in football practices during the regular season and postseason, and it adjusted this spring’s 10-day football practices so that more teams can have the full 10 days.
The board also changed the basketball playoffs and eliminated the regional format that has been used for years. Next season, instead of playing three rounds at the higher-seeded team and moving to a regional site for the next two rounds, the teams will play the fourth round at the higher seed.
The state semifinals will be held at neutral sites, and the state finals will continue to be held at major college venues.
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The board also approved a different way of dividing schools into classifications. Instead of splitting the schools into four almost equal divisions based on enrollment, the NCHSAA will use a modified 20 percent, 30 percent, 30 percent and 20 percent division.
The NCHSAA board last December eliminated off-season football workouts and approved a practice period during a 10-day period in May before the start of state-mandated final exams.
But some schools, because of their exam schedule, could not get 10 practices in during the allotted period. Durham Hillside, for example, could have only two or three practices. Millbrook was scheduled to have six.
On Wednesday, the regulation was altered to give schools a longer window to practice.
The board also joined several other state associations in limiting the amount of live, full-contact hitting during football practice once the regular season begins. Teams will be allowed 60 minutes of full-contact hitting per week. Live full-contact hitting involves full speed hitting and taking players to the ground.
“Thudding,” which is hitting but not taking the runner to the ground, is not included in the 60-minute limit.
The next realignment of schools into classifications and conferences does not take effect until 2017-18, but the process takes over a year. The NCHSAA aligns schools into classifications and conferences once every four years to include new schools and because of changing enrollments.
The board approved a modified 20-30-30-20 classification plan, which excludes schools that do not play football in the initial division among the classes. Schools that do not play football will be added to the classifications that matches their enrollments, most of them going to 1A, after the football-playing schools have been placed in their classifications.
For example, if there are 400 schools in the NCHSAA and 360 schools play football, the classifications initially would be 72 (4A), 108 (3A), 108 (2A) and 72 (1A). Then the non-football playing schools would be added.
The plan addresses the big difference in enrollment among 4A schools and the growing number of schools in the 1A classification that do not play football.
Much of the NCHSAA’s growth in recent years has been among small charter schools, many of which do not field football teams. If the teams are divided in four equal parts, there may not be enough 1A teams to fill the 64-team bracket.
The enrollment among 4A schools currently ranges from about 3,000 to about 1,300. The new alignment is expected to reduce the disparity to around 3,000 to 1,500.
Almost all 4A and 1A football squads would qualify for the playoffs during the next alignment using the current 64-team playoff bracket.
Also, some schools that are now 4A would drop to 3A, which dramatically could change area 4A conferences.
The 2015-16 basketball playoffs will be played at the higher-seeded team for the first four rounds. The state quarterfinals, the fourth round, may be moved to a neutral site if a larger than capacity crowd is anticipated.
The semifinals will be played at two neutral venues in the East and two in the West in a Super Saturday format.
Other NCHSAA actions
▪ Adopted standards for facilities hosting NCHSAA playoffs in all sports. Host schools must be safe and protective of well being of participants and spectators; must have seating for participants and spectators, with one-third of the seating reserved for visiting spectators (sports other than football, which has its own seating requirements); must satisfy Americans with Disabilities Act requirements, must have restroom facilities, must have dressing facilities; and must meet NCHSAA minimum lighting standards.
▪ Placed on the regional meeting agenda a discussion of allowing schools to participate in national events after the NCHSAA state championships.
▪ Approved the hiring a part-time Sports Medicine Director to help the NCHSAA and its member schools in the areas of health and safety.