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RALEIGH — The House and Senate voted last week to create a formal agreement between the N.C. High School Athletic Association and state education leaders.

The new version of House Bill 91 is aimed at reforming the way high school athletics are administered in the state.

The bill passed both chambers with bipartisan support by a vote of 41-7 in the Senate and 71-43 in the House. The legislation now goes to Gov. Roy Cooper, who can choose to sign the bill into law or veto it.

The compromise scales back specific demands previously advanced by legislators that the NCHSAA fought against.

The House and Senate voted separately for the measure almost two months after bill supporters had announced a deal had been reached. The announcement had followed a meeting with representatives of the association, the State Board of Education, Gov. Cooper and a bipartisan group of legislators.

The NCHSAA Board of Directors, which had been strongly opposed to previous versions of the bill, said in a statement that it still feels the legislation is unnecessary, but after the association advocated for changes that would best serve the needs of student-athletes, it doesn’t oppose the new language.

While the legislation would change the way high school sports are governed, it will not completely dissolve the current structure.

One earlier version of the bill would have replaced the association with a new athletic commission, its members picked by the governor and legislative leaders. A later edition shifted toward a formal memorandum with the NCHSAA, but group leaders still complained about specific financial and administrative directives.

The final bill tells the State Board of Education it can reach a memorandum of understanding with a nonprofit – presumably the association – to administer and enforce board requirements for high school sports.

The State Board of Education will set rules for eligibility, gameplay, health and safety, appeals, administration, fees and other items.

The board would be able to override any rule the nonprofit adopts with a simple majority vote.

The agreement, which would have to be signed by mid-March, would begin next fall and initially last four years.

The compromise comes after House and Senate Republican members initially scrutinized activities of the association, which began in 1913 and serves more than 400 schools, complaining about what they called the NCHSAA’s oversized control over member schools, eligibility decisions and monetary penalties, even as the association was flush with cash.

An earlier bill led to opposition by Democrats. Local coaches and educators also stood up for the association.

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