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Bill Would Make Friday Of ACC Men's Tournament A North Carolina Holiday

Duke University's Matt Hurt, left, and the University of Louisville's Jae'Lyn Withers are seen in a photo shared by the Duke men's basketball team on Twitter. A North Carolina bill would designate Fridays during the ACC tournaments in March a state holiday.

North Carolina residents could avoid calling in sick to work or staying home from school to watch one day of the men's and women's Atlantic Coast Conference basketball tournaments under a bill filed Tuesday.

Democratic Sens. Sarah Crawford of Franklin County, Natalie Murdock of Durham County and DeAndrea Salvador of Mecklenburg County co-authored the legislation, which would designate the Fridays of the men's and women's ACC Tournaments as a state holiday, adding to the 19 state holidays already on the North Carolina calendar.

“It's a way of life in North Carolina,” Crawford said. “It's as important a tradition as barbecue and sweet tea, and it's time that we honor that tradition and celebrate these young athletes who inspire the best in us.”

There was a time that the state’s collective attention was distracted from its routines to focus on the tournament, especially the schools known as The Big Four — North Carolina, N.C. State, Duke and Wake Forest. Transistor radios pressed up to ears instead of listening to teachers would transition to teachers bringing televisions into classrooms as a concession, which Crawford said she remembers.

But times have changed.

In 1982, the ACC men’s tournament went to a Friday-through-Sunday format, which involved four games being played on the first day, after years of a Thursday-to-Saturday run. The last time four games were played on Friday was in 2015.

“We felt like Friday was a good place to start, giving people the opportunity to either head to the tournament or support their love of he game in other ways,” said Crawford, a N.C. State graduate and avid fan of the school's women's basketball team.

League expansion would lengthen the tournaments. Both the men’s and women’s tournaments last month, held in Greensboro, went five days.

If passed, the bill wouldn't be the first time legislation allowed North Carolinians to have a state holiday to enjoy sports.

In 1935, lawmakers gave in to demands from state employees who wanted to attend the Easter Monday baseball game between Wake Forest and N.C. State, which at the time were both in Wake County, according to a story on the Wake Forest athletics' webpage. Some historians have disputed that the baseball game prompted the legislation.

“That game was one of the biggest athletic events in the state,” Secretary of State Thad Eure, then clerk of the N.C. House, said in the Wake Forest account. “It was like college football and basketball are today. The railroads even ran excursion trains to Raleigh.”

In 1988, North Carolina began observing Good Friday as the statewide holiday, replacing Easter Monday.

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