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Editorial: Spreading the wealth

You’d have to hold a lot of bake sales and car washes to raise $18 million. That’s how much money the N.C. High School Athletic Association has on hand, including more than $11 million in an endowment fund established specifically to generate money for high school sports programs. That might sound like great news for cash-strapped athletic programs trying to keep their schools equipped with up-to-date facilities and equipment, but according to a report by the News & Observer of Raleigh, schools aren’t benefitting as much as they might from the NCHSAA’s riches. The association is hoarding most of the money for itself, with “relatively little” revenue flowing back to its members. In the past seven years, according to the report, the endowment has earned $1.8 million, while only $600,000 has trickled back down to local schools.
As an organization dedicated to fairness and good sportsmanship, the NCHSAA should share more of the bounty. The association exists to serve its member high schools, and it wouldn’t even exist ó much less have amassed a small fortune ó if it weren’t for their athletic programs. Member high schools pay dues and insurance premiums required by the association. In addition, it takes a share of every championship playoff ticket sold. In more recent years, the NCHSAA ó like its college and professional sports counterparts ó has discovered another generous avenue of income. It has signed up corporate sponsors such as Time Warner Cable and Wachovia Bank, who in return for their payments receive promotional benefits such as putting their signs up at championship events or including company information in association mailings.
By most accounts, the NCHSAA does a solid job of administering and promoting high school sports programs in the state. Executive Director Charlie Adams, who has been at the helm since 1984, has helped bring solvency and financial success to the association that once had trouble covering its operating costs. But when we have local high schools that struggle to maintain their athletic programs amid mounting costs for transportation, uniforms and equipment, it’s time for the NCHSAA to relax its grip on the purse strings. This isn’t just a matter of fairness and need; it also makes good business sense. Improvements in athletic facilities and sports programs help boost attendance and participation, which helps boost the NCHSAA. The association can afford to be a good sport without jeopardizing its own financial health. High school athletic programs support the association; turnabout is only fair play.
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