Bill threatens GCHS

Published 12:00 am Saturday, June 10, 2006

RALEIGH – A bill making its way through the North Carolina House of Representatives could send local schools scrambling.

House Bill 1864, introduced by a freshman legislator from Creswell who was appointed in January, would supercede conferences made by the North Carolina High School Athletic Association.

That bill would create a &uot;small school conference&uot; and send two northeastern North Carolina leagues into chaos. Introduced by Representative Timothy L. Spear (D-Washington), the bill would remove six schools from the Atlantic 8 and Albemarle conferences and give them their own small school league.

This league would negate the travel restrictions placed on the 2004 realignment and require the remaining schools in those leagues to fill their schedules as the bill allows those six schools to &uot;withdraw, without penalty, from any scheduling contracts previously entered into for the 2006-2007 season.&uot;

That means schools that have football games in August or September may not have full schedules if the bill pass the House.

Gates County High School, who is a member of the Albemarle Conference, is one of the schools that could feel the pinch if the North Carolina General Assembly determines to get into the high school athletics business.

&uot;We have three areas of concern about his bill,&uot; GCHS Athletic Director Clark Harrell said.

The Red Barons’ AD said his first concern was that the coaches of the Albemarle and Atlantic 8 agreed to give the five of those schools who play football – Cape Hatteras, Creswell, Jamesville, Mattamuskeet and Columbia – their own league for that sport.

The ADs then agreed to revisit the conference situation in two years (the end of 2007) to see if those smaller schools were being treated unfairly or were having trouble competing.

The second issue is that the Red Barons and the other eight teams in those two leagues will be left scrambling.

&uot;We could be in a nine-team conference for a year,&uot; Harrell said. &uot;After that no one knows what will happen.

&uot;They keep saying they are trying to preserve their athletic programs, but what about ours,&uot; Harrell continued. &uot;If we have to eliminate sports because of the cost of travel, isn’t that hurting our student-athletes?&uot;

The third area was the reflection that would be left on the NCHSAA, according to Harrell.

&uot;We have built the flagship of all high school athletic associations and in one move, we’re going to go from the flagship to the laughing stock,&uot; he said. I don’t understand why we would go to this extreme because six schools are disgruntled, especially considering the concessions we’ve already made.&uot;

Harrell said when it came down to it, the bottom line was the NCHSAA was not a place for the General Assembly.

&uot;The North Carolina legislature doesn’t need to be in the athletic business,&uot; Harrell said. &uot;Senators need to be senators and athletic directors need to be athletic directors. I’m not going to be a senator.&uot;

Harrell said if the General Assembly got involved in conference realignment, it was opening a door to having every appeal heard by that body.

&uot;What happens if a student is ruled ineligible,&uot; he asked. &uot;Do we then go to our legislator to get it overturned?&uot;

If the NC House passes the bill, it’s equivalent in the Senate is sitting in committee. That piece of legislation is Senate Bill 171.

If both passed, it could leave Gates County, Camden, Manteo, Perquimans, Northside, Plymouth, Roanoke, Southside and Williamston with two conferences of nine total teams or one league with a total of nine.

Attempts to reach both Representative Michael H. Wray (D-27th) and Howard Hunter Jr. (D-5th) were unsuccessful.