All this water and all this time to think

Published 10:03 am Monday, September 24, 2018

We were spared the brunt of Hurricane Florence last week. There was, thankfully, no loss of life in the region; and most activities were back to normal by Tuesday.

“Most”, but not all.

From Little Washington south along the US-17 coast region it could be another week, maybe longer, before things come anywhere close to normal. And when it comes to decisions made regarding interscholastic athletics, the water is murkier than Contentnea Creek.

Just this past week, the NC High School Athletic Association declared in a memo issued by Tra Waters, the NCHSAA assistant commissioner for sports and championships, a mandatory three-day minimum for football teams to practice if they have missed five or more consecutive days of school.

That’s a common-sense approach that, as the memo says, will “re-acclimatize the student-athletes to wearing equipment.”

That rationale also claimed one area game scheduled for Friday, Sept. 22: Roanoke Rapids couldn’t play Vance County in football until Monday (Sept. 24) because Vance could not get in the mandatory minimum of three days practice by Friday.

But some schools like Jacksonville, which is due to host Hertford County next weekend, still haven’t returned to school. And it may be mid-week next week before they do.

That makes it hard to make the three-day practice schedule. So, what happens? Hertford County’s in danger of dropping to just nine games this fall instead of the usual 11.

The memo says that “the NCHSAA is studying ways to adjust the playoffs and will make recommendations to its Board of Directors no later than Sept. 30.”

The real kicker in this memo comes next.

“As you reschedule football contests, you should attempt to play during your bye week if possible. If that date does not work, you should schedule the game for the next available Monday or Tuesday in accordance with NCHSAA Handbook policy 2.2.8.”

Tougher for the Bears, they’ve already passed their bye week; so, do you send a young team out to play two games in four days!?!

A lot of schools have already filled their open week with the first missed game; Gates County and Bertie, for example.

The NCHSAA suggestion means that teams will play three games in eight days if they try to sandwich in a game on a Monday or Tuesday. Frankly, the suggestion was a shock. It’s unsafe to send kids onto the field three times in such a short span.

South Carolina already extended its high school season by one week like North Carolina did in 2016 after Hurricane Matthew. I’m betting that by the 30th, the Tar Heel state follows suit.

Then there’s the other elephant in the room: rearrange the state championship schedule and shorten the playoffs by a week. It will cost you money but players’ safety is more valuable.

Despite a revenue loss, high schools should be grateful they’re not the colleges. Think of the hit ECU, Chowan, UNC, NC State, and others took when they lost a game. Elizabeth City State lost two games: The Down East Viking Classic, and this weekend’s road game at Fayetteville State. Think of what a hit like that does to the revenue stream for a school challenged with enrollment and student fees for athletics versus what you can take in at the gate on a football Saturday.

The colleges may get another shot at re-scheduling. ECU could play Va. Tech during their respective conference championship weekend (since ECU’s off Oct. 27 and the Hokies on Oct. 20), assuming neither makes it to the title game. The Pirates could also schedule former Conference USA foe, Marshall, a school with whom the Pirates have a history, albeit a somewhat problematic one: remember the horrific plane crash of Nov. 1970?

But when you put it all in perspective, it’s still about safety and concern for your fellow citizens; the games can wait.

So, I’m sending my kudos this week to the UNC football team. Despite an 0-2 record, players on suspension, and other challenges, this entire group collectively donated their per diem game-day meal money ($15) from a cancelled game last week to go towards hurricane relief.


Gene Motley is a Staff Writer at Roanoke-Chowan Publications. Contact him at or 252-332-7211.