(WGHP) — Sports took Ethan Albright a long way.
He was a three-sport star at Grimsley High School – football, basketball and baseball – but it’s that first one that fed the family as he spent 17 years as a lineman in the NFL, playing most of his years with what was, at the time, the Washington Redskins.
But it was the formative years at Grimsley that had the biggest impact on his life, and he’s continuing that for today’s athletes as Grimsley’s athletic director.
“On Friday nights, we call it ‘Making Memories.’ We’re making a lot of memories for the high school kids that they’re going to remember,” said Albright about what the school creates for football players in particular as he walks through Jamieson Stadium, which has been the home of Grimsley football for 75 seasons. “I remember playing here in this stadium in 1988. We beat Page 10-7 in the playoffs. I’ve never forgotten the crowd … I put that game right up there against Dallas/Washington on Monday Night Football.”
But things may be changing in high school sports across North Carolina now that the General Assembly has passed a bill that takes the authority for overseeing sports from the non-profit North Carolina High School Athletic Association (NCHSAA) and gives it to the state superintendent of schools.
That’s not sitting well with the principals, athletic directors and staff who make up the NCHSAA, but State Senate President Phil Berger stands by the move.
“Certainly, folks who liked the current system or the existing system are going to say, ‘Don’t change it,’ but we were receiving complaints from parents, some complaints from officials that referee games, complaints from schools, and many of those folks were reluctant to speak out because of what they consider to be some retribution that would take place. The bill itself … basically put some guard rails around the High School Athletic Association,” Berger said.
“As the athletic director at Grimsley, I get lots of complaints. I can only imagine what you get across the state, but there was structure,” Albright said.“But it seems like the North Carolina superintendent of education has enough to do trying to make sure classrooms and teachers have what they need to support what’s going on in the classrooms.”
“We’ve always been very clear in who we worked for, and that’s … our public schools,” said Que Tucker, a Reidsville native who is the commissioner of the NCHSAA. “I want our member schools to continue having education-based athletics, and I think they will. I would like to hope that an organization like ours … would still have the idea that we want to provide those … teachable moments, make those moments, memories forever … so that what we’ve known can continue in some form or fashion.”
Tucker isn’t giving up hope for her organization.
“What I hope will happen is that legislators … , will come to realize that the law they passed and that the impact of it … the unintended consequences are such that they may say… ‘We need to change this law,’” Tucker said.
Albright believes the General Assembly has simply misread the situation.
“The North Carolina Athletic Directors Association has pledged full support to the North Carolina High School Athletic Association,” Albright said. “They represent all the high school coaches in North Carolina … If the legislators don’t listen to those two groups … they’re not going to listen to me.”
See what may be behind the move by the state in this edition of The Buckley Report.