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TV, playoffs among issues NCHSAA board to review before Wednesday vote

Wake Forest safety John Jiles (1) celebrates his late interception with teammate Mitchell Glover (25) during the NCHSAA 4AA football championship game between Greensboro Page and Wake Forest in Raleigh on Saturday, December 17, 2016. Wake Forest won the game 29-0.
Wake Forest safety John Jiles (1) celebrates his late interception with teammate Mitchell Glover (25) during the NCHSAA 4AA football championship game between Greensboro Page and Wake Forest in Raleigh on Saturday, December 17, 2016. Wake Forest won the game 29-0. newsobserver.com

The N.C. High School Athletic Association’s board of directors will have a number of big decisions to vote on in this week’s spring meeting. The board will meet all day Tuesday before voting on the proposals Wednesday.

Televised games, playoff proposals and changes to wrestling are among the day’s biggest items.

Television

Time Warner Cable, the NCHSAA’s exclusive media partner, will shut down the channel that has televised a number of NCHSAA regular season games and almost all state championships.

The Time Warner/Spectrum Sports SportsChannel closes this month, leaving the NCHSAA in a lurch and without one of its biggest partners – media or otherwise.

Who will televise this spring’s state championships – particularly the ones scheduled in June (baseball and softball)? What about next fall?

Without the partnership in place, what becomes of the live-televised-football-only-on-Thursday rule? So much has changed in the last few years, so does the rise of streaming affect what the NCHSAA wants to do going forward?

What becomes of the archive of state championship broadcasts, which are stored on the TWC Carolinas website?

TWC did a first-rate job with its high school sports games.

Is there a media partner that could replicate that quality of production? Could the NCHSAA do some of this in-house? How would it be broadcast to the entire state or parts of it?

The NCHSAA board does not meet again until the winter, so it has to take some action to ensure it continues to have championships, including football next fall, broadcast in some way.

There will also be a review of the NCHSAA’s collection of live radio and television fees. Only TWC could live broadcast a game on TV, and radio crews had to pay a fee to broadcast a playoff game.

Playoff format

Everyone has an opinion on what tweaks should happen to the NCHSAA’s seeding playoff system now that we’ve had some time to examine this year’s pilot program. Everyone seems to like dividing the bracket into subregionals – East/Mideast and West/Midwest – and crossing those sections to help avoid most first-round conference rematches while also balancing the bracket.

But with realignment next year, there are even more decisions.

(Quick recap: next year’s realignment is different than the one we’ve been using for decades in which all of the schools were divided into four equal quadrants to make 4A, 3A, 2A and 1A. Next year they’re putting the largest 20 percent of football-playing schools in 4A, the next 30 percent in 3A, the last 20 percent in 1A and then filled in the rest for non-football schools. The result has been close-knit conferences and the fewest complaints in a realignment period that anyone can remember.).

With 4A only having about 75 schools instead of 100, a few options have been bandied about.

Should 4A go to a 40-team bracket, as in lacrosse, for all sports? What about 48?

Would it just make more sense, financially, to keep it at 64? The problem with first-round byes is that it sometimes penalizes the best teams, who miss out on a first-round playoff gate.

Should 4A and/or 1A subdivide their brackets for more sports than just football? (In football, 64 teams make the playoffs but the larger 32 play in a different bracket than the smaller 32, which makes for eight championships.)

Even after realignment, the gap between the largest 4A schools (as many as almost 3,000 students) to the smallest 20 (around 1,600) is sizable. While 1A may not have the same kind of gap, it’s the only bracket where a school could play a team twice its size or more.

My take: this would be a good long-term way to go. It gets the six state championships that some people have wanted, but without dividing the association into six classes and creating expensive in-conference travel.

But does the NCHSAA feel confident it can book extra venues for one or two more state championships per sport? Remember, they’re just about to lose one of their biggest sponsors.

No changes are expected for 3A and 2A, which had a slight increase from 100 to about 110 schools. The difference between the largest 3A schools to the smallest, and largest 2A schools to the smallest, is only a few hundred students.

However, there is a proposal to reduce the bracket size for all classifications and sports, which would almost certainly leave 3A and 2A schools angry.

Someone has even proposed to reinstate the much-maligned pod system, which pitted teams from the same region against each other and created “conference tournaments” in the first 1-3 rounds of the playoffs in a number of sports. I’m not sure who proposed it, but he or she has a short memory.

It’s also quite possible the board will not take action, which means the current format would be in place for next season. That could provide some value to properly assess how the new realignment meshes with the seeding, but that would mean tabling a number of proposals.

Wrestling

There has been a national push from wrestlers such as Dan Gable to get more states to sanction girls wrestling.

Not all schools have wrestling, and not all wrestling programs have girls, but advocates for girls wrestling say that there would be more interest if girls at least had their own competition for individual regional and state competition.

This theory seems to hold up.

I’ve seen more girls wrestling JV than varsity, it’s hard to crack the lineup. It’s even harder to wrestle against boys in postseason competition. Only once in NCHSAA history has a girl wrestler qualified for the state championships.

The NCHSAA may be close to having a dual-team wrestling championship site. It is the only NCHSAA championship that is played on the home court of an East or West champion.

Other items

The NCHSAA has on its agenda to look at how it operates its endowment games.

In volleyball, best-of-three matches may soon count toward the overall win-loss record. Currently, these are dropped for seeding purposes.

The dead period could be reduced from six weeks to four.

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