Phase 2 extension bad news for high school football season in NC

Wednesday's announcement will push the start of the fall season, if there is a season at all, back to at least until mid-September

The North Carolina High School Athletic Association is still formulating a response to Gov. Roy Cooper's five week extension of Phase 2 of the state's coronavirus response plan (Shawn Krest / North State Journal)

Gov. Roy Cooper’s announcement Wednesday that he is extending Phase 2 of North Carolina’s response to the coronavirus pandemic by five weeks all but guarantees the delay of high school football season, as well as other fall sports in the state, until least mid-September.

If not longer.

The North Carolina High School Athletic Association had set Sept. 1 as the official start date for its fall athletic activities. But that has been postponed indefinitely now that Phase 2 is scheduled to remain in effect through September 11.

No new starting date has been set, leaving open the possibility that the season won’t be played at all.

“The NCHSAA staff and board of directors will review all available options, seek input from SMAC, DPI and sports Ad Hoc Committee, and announce a calendar for playing sports during the upcoming school year,” NCHSAA commissioner Que Tucker said in a statement issued Thursday morning. “It is hoped that we can make this announcement prior to August 17, 2020.

“We want to play sports during this upcoming school year and are making plans to do so; however, the health and safety of all participants, including coaches and other essential staff, will be a priority as decisions and plans are made.”

Phase 2 is part of a three-tiered plan instituted in March to regulate the reopening of businesses, restaurants and several other social activities. Among other things, it limits outdoor gatherings to groups of 25 people or less.

Bars, nightclubs, gyms and indoor fitness facilities are not included and must remain closed.

This is the second time Cooper has extended Phase 2. It will now be in effect until at least Sept. 11. 

NCHSAA schools have been allowed to hold athletic workouts since June 15, provided they were approved by their local school districts. The start of the fall season was pushed back to Sept. 1, several weeks later than usual.

That start date will now be pushed back again.

As of noon Wednesday, 129,288 confirmed cases of COVID-19 have been reported in North Carolina with 2,077 deaths, according to statistics posted on the state Department of Health and Human Services website.