The NC High School Athletic Association has taken another step in its governance future by entering into a legal memorandum of understanding with the State Board of Education.
The parties filed Thursday in Wake County Superior Court the 13-page memorandum that represents a four-year supplier contract that comes into effect for the 2022-23 school year.
The contract can be renewed every four years by mutual agreement, but the rectorate can terminate it with 12 months’ notice.
WRAL-affiliated HighSchoolOT reported Friday that the State Board of Education voted to approve the memorandum, though Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson voted against it.
The memorandum represents the first official update from the NCHSAA’s oversight authority since Nov. 23, when Governor Roy Cooper signed into law House Bill 91, which changes the management of high school and college sports in North Carolina.
On November 17, the bill was approved by the Senate by a vote of 41 to 7 and the House by a vote of 76 to 38.
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That Tucker, NCHSAA Commissioner, and State Superintendent Catherine Truitt could not be reached for comment on the memorandum.
In a written statement sent to HighSchoolOT, Tucker said, “Members of our Board of Trustees, and especially members of our Executive Committee, are grateful for the opportunity to share their ideas and feedback with the State Board. and their staff”.
“We look forward to continuing to provide the education-based athletic opportunities and championship experiences that our student-athletes and member schools have come to expect over our 109-year history.”
The memorandum “marks a major step toward achieving lawmakers’ goals,” said Mitch Kokai, senior policy analyst at the libertarian think tank John Locke Foundation.
“The main concern with the NCHSAA was that they were totally irresponsible. It remains to be seen if this agreement will address all of the complaints about high school athletic administration,” Kokai said. “But now there is at least a formal mechanism for people to channel their complaints through accountable public education officials.
“I’m sure interested lawmakers will be watching closely to see how well this new arrangement works.”
The memorandum contains a long list of NCHSAA changes and reforms, although the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Vickie Sawyer, R-Iredell, noted Nov. 17 that the negotiations were an example of “no one getting whatever he wants; this is exactly what we get.
Changes include (without priority list):
The NCHSAA cannot adopt a rule until the proposed rule is posted on its website and a “reasonable opportunity” has been given for public comment. The State Board of Education can declare any NCHSAA rule “invalid and unenforceable” by majority vote, and it will determine standards for student athletic eligibility.
There will no longer be fines or monetary penalties for infractions by member schools. These were replaced by a “system of demerits for breaches of student participation, administrative and gaming rules and regulations; such infractions may result in reprimands, probation, suspensions, forfeiture of contests, forfeiture of titles and disqualifications.
The bill’s sponsors said they insisted on removing fines and monetary penalties because they were more of a burden on rural public school districts with fewer resources than urban school districts.
Periodic adjustment of the four high school classifications is to be managed by NCHSAA “in a fair, impartial, and transparent manner, based primarily on average daily enrollment.” Conferences are to be designated similarly “based primarily on geographic location of schools, classification of divisions, and average daily enrollment.”
School districts must join the NCHSAA, but individual schools do not.
An appeal process has been created for schools that go first to the NCHSAA commissioner and then to an independent appeal board whose decision would be final. A process for handling complaints regarding the enforcement authority of NCHSAA has been established. The bill’s sponsors said they had heard complaints of retaliation by NCHSAA officials against people filing the complaints, which the NCHSAA denied.
Membership fees would not exceed $1 per registered student.
The NCHSAA endowment games, where most ticket revenue from a regular-season sporting event goes to the nonprofit, would end. The NCHSAA would still be entitled to receive proceeds from playoff games. NCHSAA would not receive funds from school grants and branded product sales.
A “reasonable effort” must be made by NCHSAA to allow parents, guardians and school staff “to view athletic competitions when emergency or catastrophic conditions limit in-person attendance at competitions.”
NCHSAA accepts annual audits by an independent firm and authorizes audits by the Office of the State Auditor.
As HB91 progressed through the legislature, it became increasingly clear just how personal and political the process had become.
On the one hand, the executive of a 109-year-old athletic association is set to be dissolved or become an administrator with significantly reduced authority over college and high school athletics.
On the other side are Republican senators who were willing to take a “throw out the baby with the bathwater” approach in their all-out quest to “address the lack of transparency and accountability” within the association. athletic.
Caught in the middle are not only the boards of NCHSAA and the Board of Education, but also school administrators, athletic directors, coaches and more than 200,000 athletes from the 427 member schools.
The spark behind the revamped version of HB91 appears to have been a slow burn for nearly two years.
This stems from a 2019 football playoff eligibility appeal for Anson County High School by Sen. Tom McInnis, R-Anson, and denial by NCHSAA leadership. This dispute continued in tense joint legislative oversight meetings in April and May 2021.
After months of often heated exchanges between the bill’s Republican sponsors and NCHSAA leaders, the HB91 compromise was spurred by talks held in September involving bill sponsors, Democratic lawmakers and government officials. the NCHSAA, Board of Education and representatives from Governor Roy Cooper’s office.
Rep. Raymond Smith, D-Wayne, told lawmakers during the brief HB91 debate in November that the legislation “is one of the most unnecessary bills I’ve seen in my time here.”
“This bill is trying to solve a problem that doesn’t exist,” Smith said. “Why do we interfere in high school sports? It’s the last truly pure amateur sport we have in the state.
Following the passage of HB91, NCHSAA Board Chairman Bobby Wilkins issued a statement in November stating that his Board “does not oppose the passage of House Bill 91 as revised”.
“While we continued to believe the legislation was unnecessary, we advocated for changes to the legislation that would best meet the needs of student-athletes. To date, House Bill 91 has been revised to reflect these changes,” Wilkins said.
“The State Board of Education has assured NCHSAA that it will work with the association to reach a memorandum of understanding with NCHSAA.”