High School Sports

Weather delays made with safety priority

Last Friday, heavy rain and thunderstorms forced 10 of 13 high school football games in Mecklenburg County to be rescheduled. They were completed Monday.

In Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, system athletics director Sue Doran said CMS generally does not move games forward because of impending weather, so it won’t, for example, move games to Thursday even if the Friday forecast looks poor.

“The weather forecasts are hard to follow,” Doran said. “Over the years, we’ve seen them be right sometimes and wrong sometimes, and logistically, it’s hard to pick up all of our games and move them.”

Doran said CMS’ primary concern when dealing with weather and outdoor sports is simple: “It’s fan safety,” she said. “That is paramount.”

Following is a primer on CMS policy as it relates to weather, based on interviews with Doran and several school athletics directors.

Q. When do CMS schools decide whether to play?

As a general rule, CMS does not move games up in advance of bad weather being forecast. On game day, field and weather conditions are taken into consideration and if warranted, schools will make an early decision to move games. That decision usually comes from the administration of the home school. Once the game begins, the decision to postpone is usually made by athletics directors, coaches and game officials after monitoring weather conditions.

Q. What conditions will cause a game to be stopped or called off?

Usually the biggest factor is lightning. Strong rain, winds or heavy snowfall could also force postponement. All CMS schools have an Emergency Action Plan and follow guidelines that call for players, cheerleaders and fans to leave the stadium after lightning is seen. Schools must wait 30 minutes for there to be no additional lightning, at which point everyone can return to the field.

Q. Do individual schools have the option to make a call, or is it a CMS-wide call?

Doran said it can be a school decision, particularly once games begin. In a county as large as Mecklenburg, weather conditions can vary widely from one end to the other. For example, on Friday, Mallard Creek and Charlotte Catholic were playing in the northern end of the county while Providence and Myers Park were delayed by weather in the southern portion.

Q. How long will officials wait to see if a game can be played?

This will vary by situation. Friday night, for example, Providence and Myers Park played four of 48 minutes of their scheduled game. It was delayed for more than an hour. Returning to the field, with nearly a full game to play, meant the players might not resume until well after 9 p.m. and the game might not finish until after 11. CMS ADs said they consider safety first and do not want young drivers, who frequent these games, on the road late at night after long days at school. If a game is delayed late into the game, officials might wait longer to try to finish.

Q. What about fan safety during a delay? What happens with fans?

As part of the EAP, fans are asked to return to their cars during the delay and, in most cases, the gym and/or cafeteria will be open for students who have been dropped off and do not have a ride. These areas are monitored by police and school officials.

Q. Why does CMS move games to Monday and not Saturday like some other areas?

Doran said it’s hard to pick up all of CMS’ games, which she said often number around 10 per week, and move them for a quick Saturday turnaround because it’s hard to line up game personnel and police required. She said she is open to discussing ways for schools to move games to Saturday, but would lean against allowing it if all are not on board.