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CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools announced Wednesday a $250,000 sponsorship deal with Hendrick Automotive Group that will allow the district to offer a full slate of middle school sports for 2011-12.

CMS had said it would have to curtail the lineup of middle school sports due to budget cuts, but the Hendrick sponsorship, combined with a gift from an unidentified donor, gives the school system enough to pay for the full slate of 13 sports at all 32 middle schools.

This will allow us to reinstitute programs for about 1,900 student-athletes, said Sue Doran, interim athletics director for CMS. It will make a lot of parents happy, and it will make a lot of our students happy.

The agreement designates HendrickCars.com as an official sponsor of CMS athletics. It gives the company naming rights when statistics are announced during breaks at high school sports events, recognition as a title partner in announcements at the end of high school events, and the right to display its signs at middle and high school events.

This doesn't mean student-athletes' uniforms will look like NASCAR cars, said Hendrick Automotive Group chairman Rick Hendrick, who also owns arguably NASCAR's most prominent racing team. There won't be decals on those uniforms.

It will be more like having a sign at the field -- something like that.

Earlier this year, CMS had considered eliminating all middle school sports for the 2011-12 academic year, but school officials found enough funding to provide football, volleyball and cheerleading in the fall; boys' and girls' basketball and cheerleading in the winter; and boys' and girls' track in the spring.

With the sponsorship announced Wednesday, CMS also will provide middle school athletic programs for girls' softball and boys' and girls' golf in the fall; and baseball and boys' and girls' soccer in the spring.

Interim Superintendent Hugh Hattabaugh thanked the company for its support, calling the deal an example of how local businesses can support schools and students.

Hendrick said athletics provides students with many of the tools to give them success later in life.

It builds teamwork, respect for opponents, and respect for leadership, said Hendrick, a three-sport standout in high school in South Hill, Va. As someone who participated in sports growing up and has kids who played, I understand the impact those experiences can have on young people.

CMS will use the sponsorship money to help pay coaching stipends, fees for officials and transportation costs for middle school sports. Students will still have to pay some of the participation fees CMS rolled out last year for all middle and high school sports.

Hendrick said the agreement is for one year, and he said both sides will take another look at the sponsorship in a year.

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