JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The Florida High School Athletic Association has taken a more aggressive approach in its return to fall sports, deviating from the paths taken by football hotbed states like California, Georgia and Texas and electing to start its fall season on time.
On Monday, the FHSAA decided to give school districts the option to begin practicing July 27. That goes against the recommendation of the state’s own 10-member Sports Medicine Advisory Committee, which wants to push back sports that it considers higher risk.
Under the committee’s approach, certain thresholds of decreasing COVID-19 numbers would have to be reached for it to recommend starting sports that it deemed higher risk, like football and volleyball. The medical group passed it unanimously.
FHSAA board members Bobby Johns and Sue Tortora voted against amending the agenda to even have the recommendation presented to the board.
“The SMAC strongly recommends a delayed start of the competitive season for football and girls volleyball,” said Dr. Jennifer Maynard with the Mayo Clinic and a member of the 10-person committee.
Despite the SMAC’s recommendation, the FHSAA board voted to move forward with the fall calendar and allow each district to start games when it sees fit. Start dates for practice around the state will be scattered.
This comes as other states like California, Georgia and Texas, hotbeds for high school football, made major changes to their seasons. California announced on Monday that it was pushing football to December or January. Georgia delayed its season by two weeks. Texas announced on Tuesday that it was postponing the start dates of its largest classifications — mainly its major metro area schools — by a month.
Locally, Columbia head football coach Brian Allen took to Twitter to express his frustrations with the FHSAA’s decision. On Tuesday, Allen spoke out and said that he felt that the SMAC’s decision was brushed aside when it contained relevant information.
Allen, whose program is one of the state’s top teams annually, says he trusts science and wants to follow the advisory committee’s recommendation and delay the start of football season for his team.
“For us, I think we are going to opt-out of the [state] series and go by what the SMAC suggested last night,” Allen said. “Let’s have school start and two or three weeks after, we will reevaluate.”
According to the Florida medical committee, it recommended the state would need to show a 28-day decrease in COVID-19 cases before games could be held.