NCHSAA nearly had a very dark day
Posted May 3, 2012
Any time adults get involved in youth sports ... you can bet a mess is on the way. That's not to say that parents should not be involved in their kids athletic careers, and administrators shouldn't put rules in place to protect kids that participate in athletics, because they should, but when parents and administrators get too focused on "winning", the political battles that ensue can ruin kids chances to just play the games.
Today was a near disaster for the North Carolina High School Athletic Association. Six member schools floated an amendment that had to be voted on by all member schools with little to no time for debate that would have expelled three parochial schools from the association. The amendment caused a very divisive situation where there was really no need for division. Why?
The only reasons even posited before the vote, as NCHSAA Commissioner Davis Whitfield questioned outloud before announcing the results of the vote, were "Because they have no boundaries? Because it's perceived that they recruit? Because they haven't been upstanding members of our association?"
All of those accusations are huge misconceptions of what these parochial schools actually are. There are boundaries (tuition and realistic travel distance), they don’t recruit (pretty much all successful athletic programs are accused of this at some point), and they follow all of the same rules other member institutions follow except their eligibility rules are even more restrictive than public schools.
The move by six Rowan County Schools very nearly took away the opportunity for students at 3 of the state's private schools to compete at our state's highest level all by circumventing the organization's member-appointed Board of Directors and dropping a potential public relations bombshell on the state's high school principal's plates.
While I’m fully confident that our state's administrators are capable of making a decision of this magnitude … because they are … to go about a decision to expunge three NCHSAA member schools with upstanding records of membership in the association without so much as a discussion of the real and significant issues at hand is irresponsible at best.
This decision by six schools brought out some very heated, and very counter-productive discussion. Had the measure passed in this manner, it had the potential to bring a lot of unnecessary, harsh, and harmful coverage of the NCHSAA to the forefront of the entire nation. Of course do not forget to mention the possibility of litigation that could cost the association money (into the 6-7 figure range) that should go to providing better athletic opportunities for ALL of our state's students.
The decision by these six schools to circumvent the Board of Directors brought a lot of anger and mistrust out on both sides of the issue. It sharply divided member institutions in the state, and painted three of the association's members into a corner, placing them squarely in a defensive position, and for what purpose?
I hate to be this guy and say, “when I played”, but I think it’s very pertinent in this case. It did not matter who we played, they could have been bigger, stronger, faster teams than we were, they could have had a spotless record, but my high school football coach, Charlie Groves, always said, “They put their britches on the same way you do, one leg at a time.”
At the end of the day, when two teams in the NCHSAA step out on the field, the only thing different about them is the uniforms they have on. Does not matter if it is a public school, a magnet, an open-enrollment district or a private parochial school, they still put their pants on the same way, and still play by the same rules between the lines.
It is also important to point out there are rules that are already in place to attempt to level the playing field for public schools and private schools, to keep the private schools from gaining competitive advantages because of the nature of their school not having geographic boundaries for attendance.
However, it is also very important to point out that obviously many member institutions agreed with the Rowan County schools amendment. In fact 234 of them agreed with the six that brought this matter of expulsion to a vote. It is painfully obvious that there is still a large situation that needs to be appropriately dealt with by ALL members of the association.
Had this amendment passed, it would have been an absolute travesty, particularly since there was zero discussion as an entire organization as to why this move should or should not take place. This is not a matter that should be decided in a few days. This is not a matter that should be rushed.
The decision to remove any of the NCHSAA’s member institutions who are actively submitting to follow the rules of the association should not be simply left to an up or down vote. There should be careful deliberation and consideration, which should come in the form of open dialogue between members, an attempt to try and find common ground. Meet each other face to face and discuss the issues at hand, proposing real solutions to the problems faced.
Many times, you may find that things aren’t really as you perceive them to be, and while there may need to be some tweaks made to the organizations rules to ensure a level playing field, there is a fair way to level the playing ground for ALL members of the association.
Coming to that place where it is fair for all parties is hard work. It will be difficult, it will take creative ideas, unselfishness and compromise on both sides of the issue, but I’m confident that if our state’s educators and athletic administrators truly have what is in the best interest of all kids in the state at heart, we can find a solution that would make it possible to include any accredited school in our state that wants to play by the fair-minded rules of the NCHSAA.
That’s my hope. Everyone come to the table, open-minded. Bring your problem solving skills, and figure out a way to INCLUDE students in a quality organization like the NCHSAA, rather than excluding them from the benefits gained by their peers from competition in the association.