Financial impact to be felt after the delaying high school football

RALEIGH — Fall high school sports in North Carolina have been delayed because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The NCHSAA announced Wednesday that no fall sports would begin before Sept. 1. Also, for the first five days of the 2020-2021 school year, all sports activities will be paused to allow students and school staff to focus on the start of school.

NCHSAA Commissioner Que Tucker said the delayed start to sports is just the latest plan and could be changed if or when the situation changes.

”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 (SMAC) 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,” Tucker said in a statement.

Some athletics department officials said they are losing a lot of money.

“Our guys aren’t gonna have the chance to play on ESPN, be the first ever North Carolina team to host a game on ESPN, said Scott Chadwick, Myers Park head football coach. “Then we would have played the first ever game in Bank of America Stadium.”

The loss of major opportunities to start the season for Myers Park football means a major loss in revenue.

"Between the three games, the kickoff classic with Mallard Creek and ESPN game and the game with the Panthers, it's probably gonna cost our athletic program probably about $50,000."

The money would have come from ESPN for TV rights, appearance fees and higher ticket sales.

Chadwick said that's close to half of their yearly operating budget that can't be recouped. It's a financial challenge facing all schools where football is the primary bread winner for fall sports.

"Without the money that's being generated from football and without football in general, I think that puts a lot of the other sports in serious jeopardy," Chadwick said.

Whether the North Carolina High School Athletic Association or individual districts will allow fans in the stands is yet to be determined. Games played with no fans will be another financial hit.

“It’s the fans that provide that income,” Chadwick said. “This isn’t major college or the NFL where we have major TV contracts.”

Chadwick is hopeful they will at least be able to play an eight or nine game regular season with shorter playoffs.

“That’s my hope,” he said. “I don’t know that my confidence matches what my hope is though.”

NC fall high school sports delayed until ‘at least’ beginning of September

Coaches Channel 9 has spoken with in North Carolina have more questions than answers, and they’ve expressed a lot of concern.

“If we’re allowed to play sports by the athletic association, are they going to be allowed to play since they’re virtual?” asked Lake Norman High School football coach Jonathan Oliphant. “Just a lot of questions.”

Questions and concerns is how he characterized practice Wednesday morning. Under North Carolina's plan B, Iredell-Statesville schools decided high school students will have all virtual classes, with the exception of certain electives, like band.

“It’s concerning because you’re going to have a lot of districts doing a lot of different things and then how do you logistically plan for that?” Oliphant asked.

Oliphant, like other coaches, wants what's best for his kids and said the lack of a plan for fall sports is what's most concerning.

“As a leader, you’ve got to make tough calls and you’ve got to understand you’re not gonna make everybody happy,” he said.

Right now, there’s more of a concrete plan for fall sports in South Carolina.

The SCHSL committee has approved pushing back the start date for fall sports practices to Aug. 17. The original start date was July 31.

League commissioner Jerome Singleton said the plan allows for flexibility to push dates back for football and other fall sports should there be a spike in COVID-19 cases or a weather event that forces fall sports to be postponed.

"Let's talk in terms of football because that's the one that's most challenging," Singleton said Wednesday morning.

He said practice would begin on Aug. 17 and the first games would be played on Sept. 11.

Teams would play a 7-week season, with the playoffs beginning Oct. 30. The state championships will be played on Nov. 20, two weeks ahead of normal.

“So we’ve got that two-week window as a buffer in addition to if something with the virus causes us to shut down,” Singleton said.