Pending NCHSAA decision concerns Cougars past, present

by Aaron Garcia

David Herlocker (far right) is worried that Charlotte Catholic won’t be able to play many games against schools in the N.C. High School Athletic Association, such as this one with South Mecklenburg High last season. C. Jemal Horton/SCW photo

Sometimes, it’s the subtext that hurts the most.

On April 12, six Rowan County high schools requested an amendment to the N.C. High School Athletic Association’s constitution that would remove the state’s three non-boarding parochial schools – Charlotte Catholic, Raleigh Cardinal Gibbons and Kernersville Bishop McGuinness – from the public-school sports organization. The Rowan schools cited the Catholic schools’ lack of geographical boundaries and their ability to draw students from a larger area than typically allowed by public schools.

Then, to further cloud Charlotte Catholic’s future as an athletics department, the NCHSAA also notified the school on April 18 that its financial-aid system has been called into question and is up for review.

The boundary issue was brought to a vote on April 24, with the results expected on Thursday, May 3, while the financial-aid issue is slated to be brought before the NCHSAA’s executive board of directors on May 2.

If voted out, Charlotte Catholic would have to find another athletic alternative, and that doesn’t sit well with Cougars offensive lineman Collin Porter.

“It’s definitely something (we take pride in), to be able to play the public schools and to be able to show them that just because we go to a private school doesn’t mean we’re any less of athletes or any less of ball players and we can just compete with them at the highest level,” said Porter, a rising senior.

For graduating senior David Herlocker, a running back who will join the University of Richmond football program next fall, the issue casts a shadow on the Cougars’ athletic department and insinuates that the school recruits players to its program. It’s a hasty assumption, said Herlocker.

“If you transfer to Catholic, you’ve got to sit out a year, and that ruins a lot of kids’ chances of getting recruited to play in college, so they wouldn’t even bother coming,” Herlocker said. “That takes away a whole year of coaches watching them play and a whole year of game film for coaches to see.”

The other underlying opinion as to why Charlotte Catholic’s practices are being called into question surrounds the recent success enjoyed by the Cougars athletic department. The Catholic girls swim team just won its 11th consecutive state title, while several other sports, including boys and girls tennis, boys and girls soccer, and volleyball have ventured deep into their respective state playoffs in recent years. Some believe that success doesn’t sit well with many NCHSAA schools.

“We’re just nervous about how other schools are going to see this that don’t know us because they could be like, ‘Oh, they win a lot. If we have a chance to knock them out of the league, we might as well, because that will help us win more games,’” said Herlocker. “So we’re kind of nervous about that.”

The impending decisions don’t just affect the current Cougars. Gary Boneno, a south Charlotte resident who graduated from Charlotte Catholic in 1969, seven years after the Cougars joined the NCHSAA in 1962. Boneno, who played football, basketball, baseball and track at the school, said Charlotte Catholic participated as an independent school when he was a student and wasn’t allowed to play for a state title. Back then, said Boneno, they often had to travel long distances for games since they weren’t members of an NCHSAA-sanctioned conference until 1971.

Boneno is concerned that current decisions could negate the strides made by past generations of Cougars.

“We’ve tried so hard for years to get to the level we’re competing at with these (other public schools), and now they don’t want to let us compete,” said Boneno, who also is distribution manager for Carolina Weekly Newspaper Group. “I don’t think that’s fair.”

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