2020 Bold City Showcase postponed due to coronavirus, safety concerns

Mandarin's Martranius Mack is tackled by Atlantic Coast players during the 2019 Publix Bold City Showcase. (Photo by George Varkanis)

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The Bold City Showcase to kick off the high school football season on live television is being postponed as the coronavirus pandemic continues to push the start of fall sports back.

The three-game slate at Bolles (West Nassau vs. Bolles, Oakleaf vs. Orange Park and Creekside vs. Ribault) was scheduled to be held on Aug. 22.

Shifting start dates for school districts, uncertainty of when actual games could be held and strong medical advice to push the start of the season back made hosting the Week 1 event impossible. WJXT Channel 4 was set to televise the event live for the third consecutive year.

The circumstances won’t allow it.

After hearing the report from the Florida High School Athletic Association’s Sports Medicine Advisory Committee and seeing numerous area school districts push the start of their seasons back, Airstream Ventures and WJXT Channel 4 jointly announced that they hope to reschedule event for a later date on the calendar in 2020.

If a date this year isn‘t possible, the Bold City Showcase will return in 2021.

Last year’s event drew more than 21,000 fans.

“With the decisions of local school districts to postpone the start of school and the clear recommendations by the medical community to re-think the high school fall sports including football, we needed to put the health and safety of the student-athletes, coaches, fans and officials first,” said Alan Verlander, CEO of Airstream Ventures and High School 9:12.

St. Johns County pushed the start of its school opening to Aug. 31 and said that no extracurricular events could be held prior to that date. Clay County announced that its fall sports practices would be delayed, and Duval County was looking to push the start of its school year back. Nassau County is also looking at a delayed start to its school year.

On Monday night, the medicine advisory committee recommended to the FHSAA that higher risk sports like football and volleyball be delayed until COVID-19 numbers in the state showed a significant decrease over a 28-day period.

The FHSAA board voted to allow practices to begin July 27 and not change its calendar, deferring actual start dates to individual school districts. Those districts, many of them in no position to open campuses at this point, have been postponing practice start dates across the board since that announcement.

“The safety of the participants and their families is, and will remain, our top priority,” said Bob Ellis, Vice President and General Manager of WJXT Channel 4. “After consulting with the medical experts and our partners at Airstream, we made the decision which while disappointing, is absolutely the right thing to do at this time.”

The 2020 installment of the event was the third of the Bold City brand and not the last.

In 2018, rivals Atlantic Coast and Mandarin played in the Bold City Showdown, with the Mustangs winning big. Last year, University Christian beat Bolles, Bartram Trail topped Lee and Mandarin beat Atlantic Coast in the three-game Bold City Showcase on Saturday of the opening week of the season. The 50th Northwest Classic football game between rivals Raines and Ribault was also televised live on WJXT last fall.

“This has quickly become one of the premier local sports events in Jacksonville,” Ellis said. “We are absolutely committed to it moving forward and are eager to get it rescheduled. With the changes we made at our station to prioritize high school sports the last two plus years, fans of high school football can expect it to be here for years to come. We couldn’t have imagined what this would become when we dreamed it up three years ago”

Information on ticket refunds can be found here.

About the Author:

Justin Barney joined News4Jax in February 2019, but he’s been covering sports on the First Coast for more than 20 years.