Sports fans waiting for an announcement about the status of the fall high school sports season in North Carolina amid the COVID-19 pandemic will have to wait a while longer.
The NCHSAA held a media briefing via Zoom with commissioner Que Tucker Tuesday, but no major announcement was forthcoming. Tucker said the NCHSAA will not make an announcement about the fall season until North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper releases his reopening plan for schools.
“We believe that education comes first, and that athletics is an extension of the classroom supporting and accentuating the lessons that are being learned in those classrooms,” Tucker said. “We know everyone wants a decision about whether or not fall sports will start on time. We know everyone wants to know, in particular, will the Friday Night Lights be on for our schools across the state starting in August or would it be in September. We simply cannot give you that answer at this time.”
Tucker said that, if in-person learning is not allowed under the governor’s plan, then it’s “difficult to imagine” sports could be played.
There are three possibilities for schools, Plan A, with schools open at full capacity with minimal social distancing, Plan B, with schools open at 50% capacity and Plan C, remote learning.
Tucker said that, under Plan A, the fall season would start on time, with official practices and tryouts starting Aug. 1, and football games Aug. 21. If it’s Plan B or C, several factors would need to be considered, including whether or not high school students are operating with remote learning because high school campuses are being used for middle and elementary school students.
“We promise that we will do the best we can to offer students an opportunity to get on the field and play the games that they enjoy and that they love,” Tucker said. “Our staff is working to craft new and innovative ways to accommodate schedule changes, to make tweaks that may be necessary to offer competitive opportunities in this current climate.”
Tucker said she doesn’t want to “draw lines in the sand” or set “drop-dead dates” for when sports must resume for seasons to happen, and that anything, even shortened seasons of a month are on the table.
A decision on whether or not the fall season will start Aug. 1 will likely come sooner than later.
“We are not going to be rushed into a decision,” Tucker said. “It’s not fair to our students or coaches to try to preclude or preempt what the governor is trying to do, and what his team is trying to do, to keep all of us, first and foremost, safe as North Carolinians.”