NCHSAA pushes back fall sports; football scheduled for February start

Under the plan, regular season high school football games would begin Feb. 8 and end April 9

Wallace-Rose Hill defensive end Devon Harper celebrates with teammates after the Bulldogs won the NCHSAA 2A title over Reidsville 35-38 at Kenan Stadium in Chapel Hill. (Brett Friedlander / North State Journal)

The North Carolina High School Athletic Association released a new calendar for sports across the state Wednesday, pushing back start dates for schools to resume athletics and, most notably, moving football to a February start. All dates “are dependent on COVID-19 conditions improving across NC,” NCHSAA commissioner Que Tucker said in a statement.

The NCHSAA had previously pushed back the start of the 2020-21 athletic calendar due to the COVID-19 pandemic that closed schools in the spring and has led to several counties opting for remote learning this fall. Spring sports, including the high school basketball playoffs, were canceled because of the pandemic.

On Aug. 6, the NCHSAA announced that, due to Gov. Roy Cooper’s extension of the state’s Phase 2 reopening plan, it was forced to delay the start of school athletics beyond Sept. 1. Wednesday’s released calendar moves the start of sports even deeper into the fall.

Here are the practice start dates for high school sports that are proposed in the new calendar:

  • Nov. 4: Cross-country, volleyball
  • Nov. 23: Swimming & diving
  • Dec. 7: Basketball
  • Jan. 11: Lacrosse, boys’ soccer
  • Feb. 8: Football
  • March 1: Golf, boys’ tennis, girls’ soccer, softball
  • April 12: Baseball, girls’ tennis, track & field, wrestling
  • May 1: Cheerleading invitational

The sport that has received the most talk is football, and the new calendar would have the first games played on Feb. 26 with the regular season finale by April 9. Teams would be allowed to play only seven games. All sports will have a shortened regular season schedules, with most limited to 14 games. Swimming and diving will hold 10 meets.

“We believe that this is the best path forward to a safe return to the field,” Tucker said in his statement.