JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The Florida High School Athletic Association has made a recommendation to study pushing back the start of high school sports practice to no earlier than Aug. 10, a two-week delay as school districts around the state continue to struggle with the effects of the coronavirus pandemic.
On Wednesday, the FHSAA’s Fall Sports Task Force presented numerous options to reshape the high school calendar, some as extensive as flipping the spring and fall seasons and others that held to the original start date of July 27.
Where do things stand today? The calendar remains unchanged — fall practices begin in 26 days and kickoff classics on Aug. 14 — but the task force knows that changes are coming. But it’s clear that there’s no one-size-fits-all measure that has worked in the past. Counties like Miami-Dade and Broward are further along in the reopening phase than are places like in the Northeast Florida region.
The proposal that stuck was presented by FHSAA Associate Executive Director for Athletic Services Justin Harrison. His plan would afford certain school districts leeway on when to open their seasons due to current COVID-19 hotspots around the state.
The task force passed the motion to recommend Harrison’s plan be studied further on a deadlocked vote that ultimately went 8-7 on a tiebreaker. That shows just how difficult this process is. FHSAA executive director George Tomyn reiterated that the recommendation does not establish new guidelines.
“At this moment in time, [there’s] no plan accepted, addressed or adopted. No final decision has been made,” Tomyn said. “… No final decision has been made at this time.”
It’s likely that Wednesday’s recommendation by Harrison — after it’s studied further and cleaned up as more of the task force has a chance to comb through it — becomes the blueprint for the fall sports season.
That plan had the most momentum. His proposal is to allow schools to commit to one of four options for starting their seasons; July 27-Aug. 8, Aug. 10-Aug. 22, Aug. 24-Sept. 5 and Sept. 7 and later. The July 27 date was later shifted to no sooner than Aug. 10.
“I’m going to say we take a different approach. As opposed to the state … having one start date for all, allowing each area to decide what is best for them to start,” Harrison said.
The regular season start dates for the first three options are Aug. 31, Sept. 14 and Sept. 21. All state series dates would remain the same under those first three options. The fourth option would allow those schools to create local playoffs as opposed to competing in the state series.
All of the four start dates under the Plan B option would have the regular season end with Oct. 30 games and remain using MaxPreps ranking points in both football and volleyball to determine playoff teams in Classes 1A-4A, and seed Nos. 5-8 in Classes 5A-8A.
“Again, it kind of puts control back at the local level,” Harrison said.
The task force also presented data that it gathered through surveys, although response rate was scattered. Among the 213 responses received, 178 schools said that they were looking at Aug. 10-14 start dates. A total of 122 schools said that they planned on allowing extracurricular activities and 90 said that they were still uncertain. Four schools have said that they have already canceled fall sports.
Other recommendations included playing spring sports in the fall (baseball, softball, etc.) and moving fall sports like football and volleyball to the spring, although that didn’t gain enough traction to move forward.
Tennessee was the latest state to announce it was pushing back the start of its high school season after the Governor’s office extended the COVID-19 state of emergency through Aug. 29. MaxPreps has a detailed list on where all state associations stand on fall sports plans.