Tim Stevens, The N&O high school sports editor, and the area community newspaper sports editors discuss high school athletics issues.
Q. The N.C. High School Athletic Association is known for following its rules. Should the NCHSAA, which governs North Carolina public school interscholastic athletics, be more lenient, more understanding, and weigh the merits of each situation?
J. Mike Blake, Southwest Wake News: You mean be like the NCAA? No thanks. Consistency in its rulings and a willingness to follow its own handbook are some of the most commendable things about the NCHSAA. Social media amplifies the emotional response to these rules, and maybe it triggers a look at the rule in question down the line, but an outcry should not affect a ruling.
Clay Best, Smithfield Herald: There has to be a defined line. We make our livings writing about the events as to why someone won and lost. There’s always great reasons for whatever happened on both sides of the argument. There’s no room for that here.
Aaron Moody, Eastern Wake News: One old saying aside, rules are actually made to be followed. This has to be the case at such a broad governing level. You can’t give one school extra wiggle room without extending that to leniency to every school, and not only is there not time for that but somewhere in the middle of it all decisions become subjective. The rules are clear cut. You either followed them or you didn’t. No gray area.
W.E. Warnock, Chapel Hill News: As former N.C. Speaker of the House Liston Ramsey used to say to his fellow representatives as he brought down his gavel: “These aren’t my rules. These are YOUR rules. If you don’t like them, then you vote to change them.” In other words, don’t blame the NCHSAA staff for following the rules laid down by the membership.
Stevens: Agreed. You knew the eligibility rule; you knew the scoring method; you knew the season limitation. Everyone plays by the same rules.
Q. In recent years, the NCHSAA was criticized on enforcing its age limit on a special needs student, for enforcing its rule on scoring the state track championships, and for enforcing its rule on after-season play. Was the NCHSAA right or wrong on these?
Best: I have no qualms with any of these rulings. Age restrictions are a basic building block for fair competition at every level of youth athletics. Those have to be in place or we’ll end up with 30-year-old dudes trying to win a state championship. You can’t pick which scoring rules you’re going to follow during the course of a season. And there has still been no logical argument for allowing teams to participate in non-sanctioned, national events for profit.
Warnock: As said previously, the NCHSAA staff just follows the rules created by its membership. Instead of asking the NCHSAA staff to decide when and which bylaws should be obeyed, either change the rules or create a more streamlined method of allowing schools to appeal to the membership. In the Internet Age, it should be feasible to allow for a members’ plebiscite to be conducted within a period of, say, seven days.
Moody: The NCHSAA’s enforcement wasn’t (or shouldn’t have been) the issue. People had problems with rules that were already set in place. Would you criticize a police officer for pulling you over for speeding, if you were in fact speeding? (Don’t answer that).
Blake: First, the age limit rule was not an NCHSAA rule but a state board of education rule. So in that case, the NCHSAA was ridiculed for something it had no power to reverse. As for the other two, the criticism came in reactionary fashion and the NCHSAA was right to do what it did. Individuals should seek change on rules they disagree with before it becomes a problem.
Stevens: I would not want the NCHSAA to vary from its rules and regulations. It does not do things in an arbitrary and capricious manner.
Q. Are there rules that need to be changed?
Best: Something has to be figured out with adaptive track scoring for teams when athletes don’t face any competition in their respective events.
Warnock: The hot-button issue this year is whether teams should be allowed to participate in post-championship events. The NCHSAA’s current prohibition is chiefly concerned with allowing students to move from one season’s sports into another, and that time period between sports is extremely small. If more schools want to limit the opportunity of its best athletes to play more than one sport a year, then they should be up front about it and vote to allow more post-championship invitations from out-of-state event promoters.
Stevens: Totally against high school play after the state championships. I’ve never seen a group enjoy a state championship less than Charlotte’s Myers Park girls’ basketball. Fans were carrying signs about going to another tournament. The team was chanting about another tournament during the award presentation. Overlooked in the protests was that the team just won a state title. It was very disheartening and rather sad. The adults sucked the joy out of the title.
Blake: First, the NCHSAA should adopt the Texas method in track and field and name co-champs when adaptive points are the difference between first and second place. Spring sports tryouts should be three weeks instead of two to help deal with the cold and wet conditions that late February is known for.
A rule that could help avoid most conference rematches in the first round of the playoffs is needed. In cases where two or more teams are tied for the same seed, starting at No. 1 and going to No. 32, you always re-draw for the seed unless a conference rematch cannot be avoided. I think some thought should be given to expanding the tennis team playoffs and moving girls lacrosse to the fall, though there is no movement among the state’s coaches for the latter idea.