State legislators respond with bill to block move after NCHSAA approves NIL policy

Published 11:58 am Thursday, May 4, 2023

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The North Carolina High School Athletic Association’s spring Board of Directors meeting is always eventful – but perhaps never more so than this year.

The two-day meeting held Tuesday and Wednesday generated its share of headlines – complemented by state legislative action taken immediately after the meeting in the latest attempt by a trio of state senators to strip the NCHSAA of much of its current governance of high school athletics.

The item garnering the most attention came Wednesday as the Board of Directors approved the adoption of a Name, Likeness and Image (NIL) policy for student-athletes.

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The new guidelines would go in effect July 1 and would allow state athletes to engage in certain commercial activities to receive tangible benefits. Under the policy, student-athletes could publicize their name, image and likeness through appearances, athlete-owned brands, autographs, camps and clinics, group licensing, and in-kind deals.

School personnel could not use NIL as a means for recruitment or enrollment, nor could any school personnel facilitate deals or act as an agent or marketing representative. Student-athletes, parents/legal guardians, coaches, athletic directors and principals must complete the NFHS Name, Image and Likeness Course annually prior to the first contest to participate in NIL practices.

The ink was barely dry on that new policy, though, when North Carolina senators Tom McInnis, Vickie Sawyer and Todd Johnson modified an existing bill, Senate Bill 636, to prevent the NCHSAA from implementing the NIL guidelines. The rewritten bill would also take nearly all rule-making ability away from the NCHSAA and give it to either the State Board of Education or the State Superintendent of Education.

The Senate approved the bill late Wednesday 30-20 in a vote. The bill, which could dramatically alter how high school sports are run in the state, now goes to the House.

NCHSAA member schools recently approved a proposal that would cap the number of schools in any classification to 64. This would mean that in the next realignment of schools, seven classifications would be needed as opposed to the four classes now in use.

The proposal, though, offered little detail as to how the 64-team classes should be structured, how conferences and playoffs will work and so on. Jackson said the board decided to form a committee to work through all of those questions.

“There are a lot of logistical questions that have to be answered,” Jackson said. “And so I appointed a committee of board members and asked the High School Athletic Association staff, our commissioner’s staff, to appoint outside persons who would be able to help guide that work to begin to answer questions or provide guidance to the answer of those questions, like conference setup, the way we’re going to go forward 

The board voted to adopt a Final Four concept beginning next season for boys and girls basketball. This means that the regional finals and state championship games will all be held at a single site in 2024. The board also approved the Review and Officiating Committee’s recommendation to form a committee to investigate the financial and operational costs of adopting a 35-second shot clock. NCHSAA Commissioner Que Tucker said she expects a report from that committee at the Board of Directors meeting in December.

Mandatory bat testing was approved for softball during the meeting. The Sports Committee recommended instituting the bat testing procedures, and the Finance and Personnel Committee recommended allocating $16,000 to purchase two testing machines for each region. The board also approved a game-ending rule for softball that would terminate a game when one team has a 15-run lead at the conclusion of three innings.

The board approved the elimination of tournament language in the NCHSAA Handbook in baseball, basketball, lacrosse, soccer and softball to revert the season to a 24-game limit.

The board also approved the use of MaxPreps RPI rankings for seeding automatic qualifiers and determining wild cards in dual-team tennis playoffs beginning with the 2023-24 sports season.