The N.C. High School Athletic Association’s commissioner defended the organization’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic in a letter emailed to member schools Tuesday.
Que Tucker, who has been with the NCHSAA since 1991 and has been commissioner since 2015, wrote: “ … for those who have questioned this organization's leadership, remember that it is easier to judge when looking in from the outside and in the absence of all the facts and information from a statewide perspective.”
One area in which that leadership has been questioned is in limiting the number of spectators allowed at NCHSAA events.
Parents of high school athletes started a petition on Change.org asking that Gov. Roy Cooper and Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen consider lifting or revising the executive order that limits spectators at outdoor venues, including high school athletics events, to no more than 100. As of Tuesday afternoon, the online petition had more than 37,000 signatures.
With high school football season scheduled to start Feb. 26 for NCHSAA schools, there's even more urgency to increase or lift the restrictions on spectators before the current executive order expires Feb. 28. Tucker wrote in her letter that the association is aware of those concerns, but that the NCHSAA's role must be limited.
“It has been suggested that the NCHSAA isn't doing its part to ‘put pressure’ on Governor Cooper and Dr. Cohen,” the former Reidsville coach wrote. “That is unlikely to happen, as it has never been the philosophy of the NCHSAA to pressure people with more authority and more expertise in some issues. Would the NCHSAA like more people in the stands? Absolutely! But to be clear, we want that when it is safe and conducive to do so.”
Tucker wrote that the NCHSAA has “been at the table with DHHS, when appropriate, to share our thoughts and make suggestions relative to amateur and youth sports guidelines. We have weighed in on seating limitations, beginning with volleyball and basketball. Likewise, we have been invited to do so for outdoor venues as we approach the February end of this current Executive Order!”
With the high school basketball regular season in its final week and the announcement of the NCHSAA playoff brackets expected Saturday, the commissioner noted that “our coaches and players have done an excellent job of following protocols to get to this point. I am keenly aware of the many postponed contests, quarantined teams, etc., since January 4. But I have learned that we must celebrate even the small victories! Remember, this is not the time to relax and let down your guard — the playoffs start next week, and we want all teams to have a shot!”
As the Feb. 23 start of the basketball playoffs approaches, Tucker closed the letter by writing: “As long as the 421 member schools understand the Association's role and respect the fact that we are working for them by following our Articles of Incorporation and the Bylaws, the NCHSAA will remain relevant in not only the fight against COVID-19 but future challenges as well!”
Contact Joe Sirera at 336-373-7034, and follow @JoeSireraSports on Twitter.