By Carey Phillips

 

What most people associated with high school sports in North Carolina had been expecting became official Friday when the N.C. High School Athletic Association canceled the spring sports season as well as the state basketball championship games.

The announcement came moments after Gov. Roy Cooper’s announcement that school was canceled for the remainder of the semester due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This decision is difficult for the NCHSAA Board of Directors and staff,” Commissioner Que Tucker said. “We empathize with the thousands of student-athletes, especially graduating seniors, coaching staffs, officials and family members affected by this decision. However, this decision reflects a commitment to keeping our student-athletes, officials and member schools’ staffs and their communities safe, while following the guidelines provided by the governor and his team, along with the Department of Public Instruction and the State Board of Education.”

The NCHSAA had earlier announced that spring sports were suspended through at least May 18.

“We had maintained hope for a conclusion to our state basketball championships and a modified spring sports season to help return a sense of normalcy to our communities,” Tucker said. “Now, as we continue to deal with this difficult time, we must do so by applying the lessons that education-based athletics teaches us: cooperation, patience, sacrifice, responsibility, perseverance and resilience. Together, we will be able to put a ‘W’ in the win column.”

The NCHSAA Board of Directors met Tuesday and Wednesday to discuss finalizing the state basketball playoffs, policies for summer activities, as well as address academic eligibility concerns for fall 2020. Information from the meeting will be in next week’s Herald.

The State Board of Education has announced that physicals for returning athletes will be good an extra year and that returnees who were academically eligible this past semester will remain eligible for sports in 2020-21.

While he wasn’t surprised, Smoky Mountain Athletic Director Adam Phillips was disappointed with the news.

“It’s very unfortunate,” he said. “I feel absolutely terrible for the seniors, especially somebody like Anna Morgan, who has had an unbelievable career. I never thought we would see something like this.”

Morgan, a soccer player, has 99 career goals. The team played only one game this season.

“We need sports back so bad, but we don’t want to put the general public at risk or put the kids at risk,” Phillips said.

While answering a question Friday about how schools could look different in the 2020-21 school year, Gov. Cooper mentioned the possibility of not having sports.

“I know he’s looking out for the safety of North Carolina,” Phillips said. “It’s scary, but we’ll get through it.”