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Intrastate college competition bill moves to education committee

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(The Center Square) – Requiring intrastate athletic competition in football, and men’s and women’s basketball, by large North Carolina universities is on hold for now in a lower chamber committee of the General Assembly.

The legislation filed May 1 in the House of Representatives, with the majority of its sponsorship from the western side of the state, targets UNC System schools boasting 30,000 or more undergraduate and graduate students and playing in the Football Bowl Subdivision.

Lawmakers want those teams scheduling each other regardless of league affiliation, and they want them playing the smaller schools in the system. The proposed date of enactment is July 1, 2025.

The ACC’s Carolina and N.C. State, and the American Athletic’s UNC Charlotte, meet the 30,000 and football bowl division levels. East Carolina of the American is less than 3,000 away in enrollment. The language of the bill calls for annually playing at least one home or away game between those teams.

The bill also boosts the scheduling of the other UNC System schools that play athletics. The larger schools would play at least one home and away game against schools with low enrollments every six years.

Other system schools playing in NCAA Division I leagues are Appalachian State in the Sun Belt; N.C. A&T and UNC Wilmington in the Coastal Athletic; N.C. Central in the Mid-Eastern Athletic; UNC Asheville in the Big South; and UNC Greensboro and Western Carolina in the Southern.

In NCAA Division II, the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Conference includes Elizabeth City State, Fayetteville State and Winston-Salem State; and Conference Carolinas is home to UNC Pembroke.

The drafted legislation did not delineate instruction on Division I and Division II schools. For each of the larger schools, gaining admittance to NCAA tournaments is tied to automatic bids from winning the league, or at-large bids that use metrics involving scheduling.

Basketball nonconference games sometimes involve multi-year contracts or games set ahead of time but are mostly year-to-year. Football, however, is usually scheduled well in advance.

Carolina in 2024 hosts Charlotte and N.C. Central; in 2025 visits Charlotte; and in 2028 hosts N.C. A&T.

N.C. State in 2024 plays Western Carolina at home; in 2025 has East Carolina at home and will go to Appalachian State; in 2026 hosts Appalachian State; in 2027 hosts N.C. A&T; in 2028 is at East Carolina; in 2030 hosts Charlotte; and in 2031 goes to Charlotte.

Charlotte, in addition to the Carolina and State games, in 2025 plays Appalachian in the NFL Panthers’ Bank of America Stadium; in 2026 and 2028 goes to Appalachian; and in 2027, 2029 and 2030 hosts Appalachian.

East Carolina, in addition to the Carolina and State games, plays Charlotte as the American Athletic Conference dictates. The Pirates in 2024 and 2026 will host Appalachian, which hosted a game between the teams last September.

Rep. David Willis, R-Union, is the primary sponsor and joined in presenting the bill by Reps. Jake Johnson, R-Polk; Ray Pickett, R-Watauga; Jason Saine, R-Lincoln; Joe John, D-Wake; Donnie Loftis, R-Gaston; Jeffrey McNeely, R-Iredell; Frank Sossaman, R-Vance; and Bill Ward, R-Gates.

The legislation was sent to the Committee on Appropriations initially and has been in the rules committee until being withdrawn Friday and scheduled for the Committee on Education – Universities. Pickett, chairman of that committee, announced a Wednesday morning meeting but on Tuesday said the committee would not meet.

It’s now planning to meet next week on Tuesday.

The ACC is among four remaining power conferences impacted greatly by recent moves involving what was known as the Pac-12, the Big Ten, the Southeastern and the Big 12 conferences. The Pac-12 exits left it with just two members, and the Big Ten and SEC continue to swell with speculation on if ACC schools will eventually be spread into their growing wealth.

The ACC was the last to get some of the Pac-12 teams, picking up Stanford and Cal. It also in the 2024-25 year welcomes Southern Methodist.

Litigation is ongoing about exiting the ACC, filed by both the league, Florida State and Clemson.

Army is coming to the American in 2024-25. While league overtures haven’t been issued, a myriad of more realignment is rumored – including the American possibly losing Memphis, Tulane, Rice, Texas-San Antonio and Tulsa to a redesigned Pac-12.

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