FHSAA reverses course, votes to delay start of fall sports until Aug. 24

Menendez tight end Dakota Matthews (27) catches a long pass over the Englewood secondary Friday night. Menendez won the game 59-28. (Ralph D. Priddy, Contributed photo)

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The Florida High School Athletic Association reversed course on Thursday night, hitting the pause button on the start of the fall sports season following days of backlash from all corners of the state to keep the calendar unchanged.

After revisiting the recommendations of the Sports Medicine Advisory Committee, the board voted 11-4 to postpone the start of the fall sports season and study that report in greater detail before opening the calendar back up.

FHSAA board president elect Lauren Otero said that 359 of 396 public schools across 47 of the state’s 67 districts have pushed back start dates.

Fall sports practice, which was approved to begin July 27, will now start no earlier than Aug. 24. If there is a two-week practice window, then games would first be permitted the week of Sept. 7.

Summer conditioning workouts can continue.

The FHSAA voted Monday night 10-5 to keep the start date at July 27, an unrealistic target for the bulk of the state.

The fallout from its Monday vote to keep the calendar the same had continued throughout the week as numerous school districts around the state pushed back practice start dates and expressed disappointment that the medicine advisory committee’s report was largely discarded.

Locally, Alachua, Clay, Columbia, Flagler, Nassau and St. Johns have all pushed their fall sports practice start dates back. Duval hadn’t announced a start date but was expected to.

Board member Chris Patricca put it bluntly early in the second meeting of the past four days: “I don’t see a way forward for these two sports in the fall [football and volleyball].”

That led to a meeting that traveled a winding path, with Wewahitchkha coach Bobby Johns speaking up in favor of allowing schools to start when they see fit, the first day being July 27. That’s the measure that was passed Monday.

“It is a serious overreach on our part when we start telling each school district how they should deal with their student population,” he said.

The medical report from SMAC that was discussed but played down in Monday’s meeting was front and center on Thursday night.

FHSAA board president elect Lauren Otero said that 359 of 396 public schools across 47 of the state’s 67 districts have pushed back start dates.

Mayo Clinic Jacksonville Dr. Jennifer Maynard presented data Monday in the SMAC report that encouraged delaying the start of high risk sports like football and volleyball due and reassess COVID-19 data after schools begin.

Maynard said data pulled from the World Health Organization suggested a 10% guideline to reopen and another suggestion to wait until the positivity hit 3% to reopen. Maynard said that she suggested the 5% positivity number as a return to sports. Those numbers would need to hold true over a 28-day span in counties.

About the Authors:

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

Cole joined News4Jax full-time in January 2017, but he has been a part of the team since he began filling in as a sports anchor in 2005.