Randolph County School System superintendent Stephen Gainey set for new NCHSAA role

Stephen Gainey, right, presents an award to Southwestern Randolph pitcher Macie Crutchfield after the Class 2A softball state finals earlier this month in Greensboro. (Jamie Kent / Special to Randolph Record)

ASHEBORO – Stephen Gainey has been connected to the North Carolina High School Athletic Association for a long time.

Now, there’s something more for the superintendent of the Randolph County School System.

He’s the next president of the NCHSAA, which is the governing organization for sports in public schools in the state. He takes that position July 1.

“I love the North Carolina High School Athletic Association,” Gainey said. “I’ve been around it my whole life.”

That’s because his father was a former school principal and had advocated for sports.

Gainey is no newcomer to the NCHSAA. He has served on the board of directors for four years and most recently had been vice president.

If not moving into the additional leadership role, Gainey would have cycled off the board.

“I want to be around the organization as long as I can,” he said. “We want you to move it forward. It’s a way to say ‘thank you’ to those who’ve been here. When you get in these roles, push it forward.”

From an operational standpoint, the big topic for schools throughout the state is the impending conference realignments that will stem from expanding classifications following the 2024-25 school. The NCHSAA is going from four to eight classifications, with the groundwork for that expected to be vetted and put in motion in the coming months.

“It’s going to be a big challenge, but it’s going to be very historic because we’ve had four classifications forever,” Gainey said.

Football went to eight classifications for postseason play from 2002 through the revamped 2021 spring season, so there’s a model on how that might work.

“The extreme is going to be those other sports,” Gainey said.

Having grown up in Havelock and owning a background in the eastern part of the state (and an East Carolina graduate), Gainey was familiar with many of the key personnel related to athletics from many of those communities. He said his time on the NCHSAA board has allowed him to become more familiar with folks from the West Region.

NCHSAA commissioner Que Tucker said Gainey has been an asset to the organization’s board.

“That’s a credit to his leadership skills,” Tucker said, expecting a seamless transition. “We already know him.”

The new vice president will be Mark Garrett, superintendent of Henderson County Public Schools.

Gainey, who has been with RCSS since 2013, said his interest in high school athletics is longstanding. As superintendent, he regularly attends competitions involving Randolph County teams, though he sees the events with a different perspective than as a youth.

“When I was little, I couldn’t wait until I was old enough to go to the Tuesday night basketball games, not just Friday nights,” he said.

Gainey said his goal is to maintain and foster the roles that athletics play as part of the student experience.

“They deserve great opportunities the athletic association provides,” he said.

By Bob Sutton