Last week’s news that high school cycling leagues in Georgia and Colorado are leaving the National Interscholastic Cycling Association generated an obvious question for those in the U.S. cycling industry.
Are more state leagues going to leave NICA?
This week, NICA president Steve Matous said he does not expect additional leagues to depart.
“We’re not worried,” Matous said. “We have strong assurances that our leagues aren’t going anywhere.”
Matous’ confidence stems in part from NICA’s structure as a 501(c)3 non-profit organization. NICA is comprised of 29 individual leagues, and 26 of those leagues are all under NICA’s sole 501(c)3 umbrella. NICA previously had five ‘affiliate’ leagues — Colorado and Georgia were among them — that have their own 501(c)3 non-profit status.
With Colorado and Georgia departing, that leaves leagues in Arizona, Utah, and Minnesota as the only remaining affiliate leagues with individual 501(c)3 status that is separate from NICA’s. Matous said all three leagues could become independent at any time.
“They could leave at any time if they choose to via their contract, but at this point, we’re not seeing that,” Matous said. “There’s no worry at all that the 26 other leagues are going anywhere — they are part of the national organization.”
Representatives from the Colorado and Georgia leagues cited financial reasons for departing from NICA, saying they paid NICA for race registration, coach licensing, and coaching curriculum.
Matous did not feel that the costs were prohibitive for those leagues, or the other leagues operating within the NICA system.
“Those leagues — Georgia and Colorado — paid $1,250 a year to be part of NICA. That is the only fee and the only dollar transfer that goes directly to the league,” Matous said. “Student-athletes pay $25 to the national office and coaches pay $25 to the national office for a license. We feel the student memberships and coach license have significant benefits beyond what they’re providing to the national mission.
Colorado and Georgia are not the first leagues to depart NICA, Matous said. In 2010 the state league from Washington state separated from the national organization and created its own entity.
Matous said NICA officials met with representatives from the Washington league about rejoining the national organization before the COVID-19 pandemic.
“They said they see the benefit of it,” Matous said. “When COVID hit we stopped those conversations.”
In 2021 NICA saw more than 25,000 riders participate, despite the COVID-19 pandemic. Five state leagues held competitive events: Utah, Georgia, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, and Indiana. The loss of leagues in Colorado and Georgia will cut into NICA’s overall participation number, dropping it to approximately 23,000 for 2021.
Matous said NICA officials wish both leagues the best in their respective futures.
“They described [leaving] as a business decision, and that’s for them to decide,” Matous said. “We wish them the best. They are working hard and we wish them well and have no animosity.”