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Need a one-stop shop to catch up on the top sports stories big and small? Time Out For Sports airs Mondays on WFAE's "All Things Considered" and has what you need to know about everything from Charlotte-area high school football highlights to the latest updates on the Carolina Panthers.

Time Out For Sports: CMS Pause On In-Person School Impacts Student-Athletes, Too

High school swimmers in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg school district won't get to finish their season after the Board of Education paused in-person classes and other activities amid a surge in COVID-19 cases in the city.
Arisa Chattasa
High school swimmers in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg school district won't get to finish their season after the Board of Education paused in-person classes and other activities amid a surge in COVID-19 cases in the city.

There's a lot going on in Washington, but that doesn't mean sports news has stopped churning.

For starters, high school sports at Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools is in doubt for the rest of the school year. The school board put most sports on pause last week when it voted to delay in-person classes until at least early February.

Plus, the Carolina Panthers have a new general manager, a traditional ACC power is struggling in college basketball and the CIAA is coming up with a new way to hold a tournament.

Langston Wertz Jr. of the Charlotte Observer joins WFAE's Sarah Delia with the details in the latest installment of Time Out For Sports.

Sarah Delia: Hi, Langston.

Langston Wertz Jr. Hi, Sarah. How are you?

Delia: Good, thanks. Let's start off bytalking about the sports that were underway when the board made its decision. Is the season effectively over for high school basketball and volleyball?

Langston Wertz Jr, a longtime sportswriter for the Charlotte Observer.
Langston Wertz Jr.

Wertz: Well, volleyball was allowed to continue. They allowed volleyball and cross country to continue since they were in their seasons. Actually, Providence High School is the only CMS team remaining, and they'll play in a state semifinal match Tuesday night in Raleigh against Green Hope High School, which has won four straight state championships. That's a big match. And cross country had their regional events this past weekend, and the state championship's on Saturday. Ardrey Kell's boys and girls both won regional championships this past week — going to be among the favorites to win a state title. Basketball will be on pause until Feb. 15, which is basically the last week of the regular season.

So the most games CMS teams could play is six where everybody else is going to play 14. And remember, they won't have any practice or anything for months, so those teams are going to be awful, awful rusty by the time they go into the playoffs. And they have to determine who goes to the playoffs, and so what it really means is some teams are only going to play six games all year long.

Some teams may get seven, some teams, maybe get 10. But it's going to be a very, very short season, which is unfortunate. And even worse is for the swimmers because their season's over. They were going to conference championships last weekend and would have started playoffs in two weeks, and they won't be able to either one. The state championships for swimming will end the Saturday before the pause stops, so it's really unfortunate for swimmers.

Delia: Well, high school football, which was already delayed, of course, was scheduled to start late next month. What happens now to that season and other traditional spring sports like baseball and softball?

Wertz: Yeah, well, this year the calendar get tossed around on his head due to COVID, and football's moved back to February. They were going to start Feb. 8, and CMS will just have to wait one week and start Feb. 15. And the games will start two weeks after that. So they'll be behind other people.

A lot of schools have started their workouts today, being Monday, and so CMS is going to be that much further behind when they get started. The other sports you mentioned are going to start later on in the year, so they will they will not be affected by this.

Delia: Meanwhile, is sports continuing in districts surrounding CMS?

Wertz: Yeah, I think that's a tough part for CMS, because they look around: Union County, which is a step away, is still playing; Cabarrus County, which is a step away. Some kids live in neighborhoods where half go to Cabarrus, half to go to Mecklenburg County. They're still playing. Iredell, Gaston — everybody still playing. The only county that's taken a pause statewide that we can find right now is CMS.

Delia: Well, let's move on to the Carolina Panthers, where it's a new era in the front office. The team has a new general manager. Tell us about him.

Wertz: Yeah, they hired Seattle Seahawks Vice President of Football Operations Scott Fitterer. He was one of the four finalists, and he's known around the league as a really good evaluator of college talent. He's never been a general manager or chief decision-maker of a personnel department, but he's been rising through the scouting ranks with the Seahawks since 2001.

Most NFL guys say this guy, you know, he has 20-plus years' experience. They say that he really knows college talent and that's going to help the Panthers identify the young guys to continue making their push into the upper echelon, hopefully, of the NFL.

Delia: And in college basketball, it was a rough weekend for the UNC men's basketball team.

Wertz: Yeah, they lost 82-75 at Florida State. That was a tough game for them to lose. They had a three-game winning streak. ... They've been winning some really close games. This is not the Carolina team from last year when they struggled really bad, had one of the worst records they had a long time, but I don't know if this is kind of the "redeem team" everybody thought it was going to be.

Carolina's 8-5, 3-3. They're in the middle of the pack in the ACC. I don't think they're in any major trouble. I just think they kind of are where they are. Their backcourt's young. I know that they were star-studded, but they haven't played as well as they thought. The frontcourt is really good. They run sharp. The freshman looks like a first-round draft pick.

And the good news for Carolina is they got Anthony Harris back who hurt his knee, and he may be the boost they need to get back. So I think Carolina is going to be OK. I don't think they're going to challenge for the ACC title, but I think they're a tournament team.

Delia: And keeping it in college sports: The CIAA has announced a virtual tournament. What is that going to look like?

Wertz: Yeah, Feb. 23-27 they're going to have a virtual tournament. They partnered with the Visit Baltimore in Baltimore, Maryland, for the first-ever virtual tournament for the 76th annual CIAA tournament. They're not having basketball because the league canceled the basketball season, but they're going to have a virtual fan fest, they're going to have virtual step shows. They're going to have virtual school education days. They have comedians, DJ battles, e-sports tournaments. They're going to try to bring some of that flavor of CIAA to your computer screen that you might miss in person.

Langston Wertz. Jr. is a veteran sportswriter for the Charlotte Observer.

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Sarah Delia is a Senior Producer for Charlotte Talks with Mike Collins. Sarah joined the WFAE news team in 2014. An Edward R. Murrow Award-winning journalist, Sarah has lived and told stories from Maine, New York, Indiana, Alabama, Virginia and North Carolina. Sarah received her B.A. in English and Art history from James Madison University, where she began her broadcast career at college radio station WXJM. Sarah has interned and worked at NPR in Washington DC, interned and freelanced for WNYC, and attended the Salt Institute for Radio Documentary Studies.