News: Quick Takes

Head of high school sports group’s board calls accusations ‘disheartening,’ ‘infuriating’

Accusations aimed at North Carolina’s public high school sports governing group “range from ill-informed to just plain wrong.” That was the message from the group’s leaders during a 75-minute news conference Thursday, March 11.

The news conference responded to recent reporting criticizing the N.C. High School Athletic Association.

“Over the past several days, it’s been disheartening and honestly infuriating to hear some of the comments that the members of our General Assembly have made about the NCHSAA, its governance and leadership of high school athletics in our state,” said Jerry Simmons, president of the NCHSAA board and principal of New Bern High School. “To set the record straight, I want to unequivocally state that the NCHSAA is not an organization devoid of oversight and is not lining the pockets of the staff and board members. Any assertion otherwise is careless, uninformed, and downright false.”

Simmons addressed the suggestion that NCHSAA is “sucking money out of schools.”Nothing could be further from the truth.” “The association has returned $12.8 million to members schools in the past decade, including $1.2 million last year, when schools had no basketball championships or spring sports playoffs.

Commissioner Que Tucker also responded to recent legislative involvement in NCHSAA business. “This is unfortunate because much of what we have read and heard is inaccurate,” she said. “When people attack the NCHSAA, they attack not only the association staff, but also the board of directors and each member school.”

Tucker defended NCHSAA’s decision to seek a federal Paycheck Protection Program loan during the COVID-19 pandemic. She noted that the loan — since forgiven — helped make up for revenue that the group normally would have received from spring playoff contests.

The commissioner also addressed concerns that the NCHSAA’s assets have grown from roughly $20 million to $40 million in a decade. “There are those people who believe that, ‘Well, we should just wipe out the endowment, and let’s just give it all back to the schools today, and then we don’t have to worry about this,'” Tucker said. “I would bet you that even legislators would say that’s not a very wise move.”

“I believe I read the other day where the General Assembly says we have billions of dollars that have been set aside for a rainy day,” she added. “So I guess you could say the association has millions of dollars that are set aside for a rainy day, and certainly we are in a rainy day right now in terms of this pandemic.”