CHAPEL HILL — The North Carolina High School Athletic Association updated its member schools about its modified sports regulations and sports calendar on Tuesday.
After the NCHSAA, its Board of Directors and an ad hoc committee spent the last few weeks discussing the next steps of returning interscholastic athletics, several changes were made following Gov. Roy Cooper’s announcement of entering Phase 2.5 last week.
“We are looking forward to fully resuming sports in November,” Commissioner Que Tucker said in a press release. “As always, we will continue to monitor health and safety guidelines to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.”
Modifications were made to areas such as dead periods, team and individual scrimmages, conference tournament procedures, team sport playoffs, and regular season regulations for individual sports.
One change the NCHSAA is making to its modified sports regulations that will make an immediate impact on Richmond Senior High School’s programs participating in voluntary workouts is the number of players and coaches allowed to attend a single session.
Per the NCHSAA, there can now be up to 50 people at an outdoor venue workout and up to 25 people at an indoor workout. The outdoor number has been doubled, while the indoor limit increased by 15 people.
“We will be moving indoors as soon as possible,” Ashleigh Larsen, Richmond’s head volleyball coach, said after reading the new guidelines. “I’m just happy to be able to have more girls indoors so we can get moving on what we need to.”
Head football coach Bryan Till echoed Larsen’s sentiments, adding that the football team can expand its workouts to the weight room, as well as being outside.
“This helps a ton because it helps not stress out our coaches with tracking multiple groups and sessions,” Till said of the expanded number. “It will allow coaches to focus on what we need to do, and it will give us some weight training time inside. Things will still be limited, but organizationally. it’ll allow more kids to get out and participate.”
When the NCHSAA released its official sports calendar for the 2020-2021 athletic year on Aug. 12, conference tournaments and playoff brackets were not included. The new guidelines for conference tournaments align with the weekly/seasonal limitation for games and matches.
Most sports, aside from football, will follow a 14-game regular-season schedule and be allowed to compete twice a week.
“It’s good to see things moving in a positive direction,” Rob Ransom, Richmond’s athletic director, said. “We are all anticipating a return to normalcy, and this seems to be a step in that direction.”
Ransom added he believes that regular-season schedules for each sport will be created by each conference. The Sandhills Athletic Conference, which Richmond competes in, has a meeting scheduled on Thursday and Ransom said more will be discussed then.
Conference Tournament Guidelines
Per the new guidelines for team sports, “a conference tournament/meet may be conducted in accordance with all weekly and seasonal limitations.” For individual sports, a “conference tournament/meet that does not count toward season/weekly limitation” will be allowed.
With team sports like volleyball, soccer, basketball, baseball and softball, if a conference tournament is held, “the two teams that advance to the conference tournament championship contest will be allowed one additional contest that is not subject to the weekly/seasonal limitations.”
In order for teams to be eligible to compete in the NCHSAA state playoffs, they must “fully participate in conference competition as determined by each individual conference.”
All team sports will follow a 32-team bracket, and football will be subdivided into two 16-team brackets for each classification.
Conference teams will qualify into the playoffs as follows:
1-6 teams in the conference = one automatic berth
7-8 teams in the conference (Sandhills Athletic Conference) = two automatic berths
9+ teams in the conference = three automatic berths
The NCHSAA guidelines added that “predetermined brackets will be used for the playoffs in an effort to minimize travel for qualifying teams.”
“The playoffs will be four rounds with 16 4AA teams, which could prove to be murderer’s row in 4AA,” Till said. “Depending on if we go east or west, there’s the potential to have the top eight teams end up in the west.
“There will some tiebreakers, but at least we know what things will be like going in to it,” he added. “The SAC and I-MECK (conferences) are very tough leagues, and there’s a potential for some strong teams to be left out. We you cut the field down, that can happen. I respect that and if we want to get in, we’ve got to win.”
Other modifications made by the NCHSAA include:
– A three-day dead period for all out-of-season sports will begin the first day of each season/tryout period.
– The current NCHSAA handbook policy regarding pre-season scrimmages in all sports will remain in place.
– Cross country, swimming and track and field season limitations were increased to 14 meets.
ROSports will publish a second article with more modifications surrounding individual sports.