Playing fewer games or playing games with without fans could be "financially devastating" for high school athletics programs, but the N.C. High School Athletic Association considers any scenarios premature for now.
The association's board of directors said the restrictions of a "dead period" related to summer activities for fall sports teams for the 2020-21 academic year would remain in place during the coronavirus outbreak.
"We understand that many people are interested in how schools and teams can get back to workouts, practices and competition," NCHSAA commissioner Que Tucker said in a statement. "At this time, it is premature to speculate on a return date and whether or not the fall season will be impacted by COVID-19. We will continue to listen to the advice and mandates of our state’s governor, Department of Health and Human Services, and medical advisers to inform our decisions going forward.
"Any decision made by the board of directors and staff at a future date will be guided by those sources of information, erring on the side of health and safety. We will do our part to ensure health and safety for all of our athletes, coaches and communities.”
Tucker and Brad Craddock, the board president and principal at Glenn, said it would be premature to make any changes to the fall schedule. Tucker said football games without fans permitted — a restriction to limit the spread of the outbreak — would be hurt high school budgets that count on that revenue for the academic year.
"Football, in most instances, helps pay the bills for some of the other sports," Tucker said. "Football is a lifeline for many of our programs. It's hard to imagine what it could look like — what it would look like — if spectators were not allowed at all."
Tucker said she envisioned a scenario in which football was played with a limited number of spectators to help generate revenue. But she said it's too early for that plan.
"Let's face it. We're not even in phase one of the plan our governor has laid out," Tucker said. "And until we can get to phase one, trying to think about phase three, which is where we would have the opportunity to say, 'Oh, yeah. We're going to be able to have these spectators in the bleachers.' It's hard to really even be able to plan and talk about how that's going to look."
The board discussing other topics, including:
Realignment. Tucker described a plan for its next realignment similar to a tape recorder: The "pause button" has been pushed, although she aims to have a plan approved by March 2021. The realignment committee has had only two in-person meetings because of the pandemic. She hopes to have more information for the NCHSAA's regional meetings in September.
Eligibility and physicals. The board approved use of Pre-Participation Examinations (PPE) conducted on or after April 1, 2019, and will allow eligibility for athletes who passed this academic year's grade level.
Football contact. Weekly preseason scrimmages will be reduced from seven to five hours per week when football returns, and teams will have 48 hours of no contact between scrimmages but not including jamborees. During preseason practices, from Aug. 1 to the Monday prior to the start of the season, players will be limited to 15 minutes of live action contact per group per day. When the regular season kicks off, players are limited to 15 minutes per week. Contact includes full-speed drills and scrimmages between offense and defense that involve tackling. For spring practice in 2021, a simulation of a live action drill ending in no player taken to the ground will be permitted for 60 minutes per day.