Nontraditional schools continued to dominate the N.C. High School Athletic Association this year.

I'll pause here while you try to recover from the shock of that sentence. I hope I didn't cause any cardiac events with such a surprising statement.


I'll let you catch your breath.

Maybe change the subject.

How about last week, huh?

Obamacare and nationwide same-sex marriage upheld by the Supreme Court and the Confederate flag coming down all over the country.


Back to a (only slightly less) controversial subject.

Nontraditional schools, which include non-boarding, private parochial schools and public charter and magnet schools have been winning at a phenomenal rate in recent years.

And this one was no different.

On Friday, Wells Fargo, along with the NCHSAA, announced the final standings in the Wells Fargo Cup competitions for the 2014-15 academic year.

The award recognizes the high schools that achieve the best overall interscholastic athletic performance within each of the state’s four competitive classifications.

Cardinal Gibbons won again, giving it nine of the last 10 competitions for the Cup.

The non-boarding, private parochial Raleigh school has also won 55 state championships since joining the NCHSAA in 2005, which is far more than any other school in the association during that time. Its athletic program won a staggering seven state titles last year alone.

The timing of the Wells Fargo Cup standings couldn't have come at a worse time for Cardinal Gibbons.

Two weeks ago, two Wake County conferences changed their bylaws to prohibit member schools from playing non-public schools, including non-boarding parochial schools such as Cardinal Gibbons.

Athletic directors from the Cap-8 4A and Southwest Wake Athletic 4A Conference amended their respective league bylaws after Cardinal Gibbons asked in December for the NCHSAA to move it from the 3A alignment to 4A.

The resulting decision has set off a firestorm of controversy in the Triangle during the past few weeks.

This isn't the first time Cardinal Gibbons has been surrounded by controversy.

Rowan County called for an NCHSAA vote in 2012 that would have removed the association's four non-boarding, private parochial schools, including Cardinal Gibbons, Charlotte Catholic, Bishop McGuinness (Kernersville) and the new Christ the King (Huntersville).

A vast majority of the member schools voted to oust the four schools on the ballot with 234 calling for them to leave. The vote needed three-fourths (293 schools) of the association membership to pass, however, and more than a fourth of the schools (105) failed to vote.

By the way, since 2001, Charlotte Catholic has won 50 NCHSAA titles and Bishop McGuinness has won 25, including three this past year.

How do these athletic programs win at such a staggering rate?

Many would point to a number of factors, such as more money, better facilities, better coaches and more engaged parents presenting a significant competitive advantage.

But most would point to the 25-mile radius the schools are allowed to draw from to fill enrollment.

Unlike most traditional NCHSAA schools, there are really no clear district lines for them to adhere to when it comes to accepting students. They offer open enrollment, allowing students from numerous counties to attend.

It's the same way with the charter and magnet schools at the 1A level.

And this open enrollment seems to be paying off.

Per usual, the 1A Wells Fargo results were quite eye opening.

Bishop McGuinness, which has won four of the past five 1A Cups, took the top spot once again, followed by the Community School of Davidson. Raleigh Charter was third and Lincoln Charter was fourth.

Pine Lake Prep was sixth, and Winston-Salem Prep was seventh. Elkin was the lone traditional NCHAA school among the top seven with a sixth-place standing.

Last year, Elkin, Starmount and Rosewood were the only traditional schools in the top nine of the 1A classification, with nontraditional schools taking the top three spots.

The 25-mile radius is an even bigger deal in 1A with metropolitan charter and magnet schools pulling from a population of hundreds of thousands while traditional small-town, rural schools with clear district lines pull from just thousands.

Four years ago, the General Assembly removed the cap of 100 charter schools in North Carolina. There are currently 148 public charter schools open in the state, and in January, the State Board of Education granted final approval to 11 charter applications at its regularly scheduled January meeting. These charter schools will be opening to serve students in August 2015.

More will surely come.

With this many schools on the horizon, an all-charter division seems reasonable.

But things can get a little tricky when you're dealing with the charter school issue. Just ask the General Assembly.

Perhaps if a few 1A conferences suddenly decided to not schedule charter schools in the future, something would happen.

Something needs to happen.

Because this issue isn't going away.

If only the Supreme Court wasn't so busy.


(Send comments or questions to or follow him on Twitter @jjsmithccnt.)

(1) comment

Mark Eadie

I do not agree with the "if we can't beat them, kick them out approach". I would like Carteret County to invest more in our school athletic programs.
The East basketball team did not make excuses and ask the Winston-Salem team to be removed from the competition after losing to them in 2014. Instead they raised the bar. It would have been a hollow State Championship if East had won without having to face this opponent again.
Lets improve our facilities and coaching, and engage the local community. Athletic participation is an essential part of learning and character development yet too often athletic departments are the first to feel the pain of budget reductions.
Some Catholic children live 25 miles from Cardinal Gibbons but have no other Catholic school alternative so they must go to Cardinal Gibbons to receive an education with Catholic values. The result is a playing field that is not quite level. As I said though we can mitigate it through our own commitment towards excellence in athletics. Will you next seek to have China removed from Olympic competition because they have more people to draw from and /or invest more time, money, and energy in athletics?

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