CHAPEL HILL — The North Carolina High School Athletic Association announced July 15, that the fall sports season would not begin until at least Sept. 1.

The announcement came one day after Gov. Roy Cooper announced schools would be reopening for the 2020/21 school year despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

The NCHSAA Board of Directors decided to delay the start of the fall sports season until at least Sept. 1, designated the first five days of the school year as a dead period for all sports to allow school staff to focus on the new year and decided phase one of the summer conditioning and workouts will continue until further notice.

In a release, NCHSAA Commissioner Que Tucker said there will be sports this year, but uncertainty still looms.

“For now, we believe these steps provide hope for our student athletes, and the possibility for playing fall sports We know that many decisions are being made relative to the reopening plan your school(s) will follow. After each LEA has had an opportunity to formalize and finalize those reopening plans, the NCHSAA staff will survey the membership to determine how sports should and/or can fit into the various models that will exist across the state. Please understand this delayed start date is not ‘in cement’ and can be delayed even further if we do not have improved data from the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, or some other reason exists for delaying further into September or beyond.

We acknowledge that playing certain sports are more problematic at any time without a vaccine; however, we remain in consultation with our Sports Medicine Advisory Committee members, and they believe we can and should offer a sports program, with all necessary modifications, delays, etc. In the coming weeks, we will continue working with the SMAC as we plan our next steps for the fall, as well as determining when equipment could be shared—i.e. balls— and/or if we can move into Phase 2 of the summer workouts/conditioning.

Each NCHSAA Board Member believes in the value of education-based athletics and is committed to safely offering a fall, winter, and spring sports program during this school year; however, there is also a commitment to the health and safety of students and coaches. Towards this end, we all will continue to follow the guidance of the DHHS relative to the data and how we all safely move forward. We are in this together, and we will play again.”

In a newsletter hours after the announcement, Ashe County High School Athletic Director David Koontz voiced his support for the decision.

“I applaud the NCHSAA for taking these steps in order to provide hope for our student athletes. Our school system like the NCHSAA believes in the value of education-based athletics and knows how important it is to our student athletes,” Koontz said. “We will continue to focus on the things that we can control here locally to ensure the health and safety of our student athletes and staff so that we can return to play as soon as possible. I continue to ask for your patience, compliance, and understanding as we work through these challenging times due to the COVID-19 restrictions.”

ACHS began a summer conditioning program for fall sports teams July 6, with all sessions being outdoors and strictly limited to 25 coaches and athletes.

Ashe Post & Times will provide updates for this story as they are made available.

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