High School Sports

NCHSAA board denies appeal by Myers Park girls’ basketball team

Fans of the Myers Park Mustangs hold signs reading "Let Us Play" following the team's victory over Southeast Raleigh in the NCHSAA 4A Girls Championship game at the Dean E. Smith Center in Chapel Hill, NC on Saturday March 14, 2015. Myers Park defeated Southeast Raleigh 52-47 but the NCHSAA denied its appeal Tuesday to play in the Dick's Sporting Goods National tournament.
Fans of the Myers Park Mustangs hold signs reading "Let Us Play" following the team's victory over Southeast Raleigh in the NCHSAA 4A Girls Championship game at the Dean E. Smith Center in Chapel Hill, NC on Saturday March 14, 2015. Myers Park defeated Southeast Raleigh 52-47 but the NCHSAA denied its appeal Tuesday to play in the Dick's Sporting Goods National tournament. jsiner@charlotteobserver.com

Myers Park’s nationally ranked girls’ basketball team won’t be going to New York next month.

The N.C. High School Athletic Association Board of Directors denied the Mustangs’ appeal that would’ve allowed Myers Park to play in the DICK’S Sporting Goods national championship in New York City next month. Myers Park is ranked No. 4 in USA Today’s national poll.

On Tuesday, the NCHSAA’s full Board of Directors met via conference call and voted unanimously, after lengthy deliberation, to uphold the current rule and deny the appeal. The Board also voted unanimously to place the rule on the agenda for review for its May meeting, directing the staff to gather information and additional feedback from the NCHSAA membership as well as policies from other state associations.

Mustangs coach Barbara Nelson said she was happy that the NCHSAA would revisit the rule..

“I'll be honest,” she said, “I’m not surprised, but I’m very disappointed. In life, you learn most of what you learn through experiences. This was an opportunity for kids to earn an educational experience and it shocks me that we’re claiming to be educators and we have this group of principals and athletic directors and we valued a 40-year-old rule over an educational experience.

“... When this rule does get overturned, we’ll be disappointed we didn’t get to go but I am happy Myers Park took on this fight and was willing to push it through to the end because if the rule does change, another kid or another team will get this kind of opportunity.”

On Tuesday, Myers Park athletics director Rick Lewis said the NCHSAA conference call lasted about 35 minutes. School officials told the NCHSAA Board that they felt the all-expenses paid trip would be an education experience, with trips to landmarks like the Statue of Liberty. They also mentioned that four Mustangs players had never flown before. After the call, officials waited for the NCHSAA decision.

It came shortly after and left all the Mustangs disappointed.

“I know it’s a mythical national championship,” Lewis said, “but there’s no other tournament of this sort. We felt like it was a reward for the culmination of four really great years (when Myers Park was 119-4 and won two state titles). We felt like our kids deserved it.”

The NCHSAA initially denied Myers Park’s request last month, citing a rule that NCHSAA commissioner Davis Whitfield said is more than 40 years old. It prevents teams from continuing to play after their N.C. sports season ends. Myers Park’s season ended Saturday after it beat Southeast Raleigh to win its second straight state championship. Myers Park had asked for a waiver to play in New York. It appealed the original decision. It was the first time a school appealed the rule.

“The Board of Directors had a very difficult decision and Myers Park made a very thorough and thoughtful presentation,” Whitfield said in a release. “However, the Board concluded that there are more factors to consider than simply waiving rule 2.3.14, allowing a school to play after the end of the season. This event has not been sanctioned by the NCHSAA nor by the National Federation, which also means there could be insurance ramifications. The Board felt there were lots of layers to this other than just waiving the policy itself.”

An appeal to the full Board of Directors is the final step in NCHSAA due process. The decision by the Board of Directors is both final and binding, the NCHSAA said.

Callaway (Miss.) High, ranked No. 4 among USA Today’s boys teams, turned down its invitation to the DICK’S nationals because the Mississippi High School Activities Association wouldn’t approve a change in its rules to allow it.

Last week, however, the Georgia High School Sports Association overturned an earlier decision and agreed to let Wheeler High play in the national championship. Georgia joined Utah, Florida and Washington as states that would allow teams to participate after their seasons concluded.

Wertz: 704-358-5133; Twitter: @langstonwertzjr

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