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FHSAA will vote on fate of 2020 sports season with as few eyes as possible watching

Mandarin quarterback Carson Beck scrambles in a Week 6 win over Nease. (Ralph D. Priddy, Contributed photo)
Mandarin quarterback Carson Beck scrambles in a Week 6 win over Nease. (Ralph D. Priddy, Contributed photo)

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The Florida High School Athletic Association is prepared to make a decision on the fate of the sports season and few will be around to see or hear it.

When the state conducts its board of directors meeting on Aug. 14, space will be limited due to social distancing restrictions at the venue in Alachua County, which caps gatherings to no more than 50 during Phase 2 of the state’s reopening process.

But unlike its two emergency board of directors meetings last month to vote on the start of the fall sports season and were live streamed on Zoom and YouTube to massive audiences, the FHSAA will not broadcast next Friday’s session.

FHSAA will not broadcast Friday's vote
FHSAA will not broadcast Friday's vote

In a story published by The Orlando Sentinel on Friday night, FHSAA executive director George Tomyn defended the decision to not make the board meeting publicly available like the previous two, saying that this is “standard meeting procedure.”

“I’m not trying to avoid anything,” Tomyn said, according to the Sentinel. “This is how we decided to do things because this is the customary arrangement for our meetings. Of course the social distancing requirements mean we cannot accommodate as many people, but this is our standard meeting procedure. We’re an athletic association, not a broadcasting company.”

It may be standard meeting procedures in normal times, but 2020 is far from normal. The decision to not furnish a stream the event has incensed those in the media, coaches, parents and athletic directors.

Two meetings of the FHSAA fall sports task force committee were livestreamed and both emergency board of directors meetings were livestreamed. For a discussion and vote that will determine when the season begins and what it will look like, the interest is off the charts.

The decision to pull the plug on the most important meeting of the year did not sit well at all with FHSAA board member Lauren Otero, who had been vocal in previous board meetings in this process about transparency.

“I am disappointed in the decision made by FHSAA staff not to broadcast this meeting publicly. When the two prior meetings drew attendance of 4,000-5,000 viewers, it tells me the discussions/topic addressed during our prior meetings are of great interest to the public,” Otero told News4Jax Friday.

“Upon learning the meeting was not going to be live streamed, I made the request of Mr. Tomyn to make the necessary arrangements to have it streamed. My request was denied with no further explanation.”

Several area athletic directors have expressed interest in attending, but have been told that space was extremely limited due to social distancing restrictions. The FHSAA didn’t return a message from News4Jax earlier Friday seeking further detail on the meeting.

Coach thoughts on impending Fall sports decision
Coach thoughts on impending Fall sports decision

The FHSAA had put three options up for discussion among its various advisory committees. Last week, the football coaches advisory committee voted in favor of Option 1, which starts the regular season at Week 3 and plays a nine-game stretch.

The athletic director advisory committee this week was in favor of Option 3, which pushes back the start of the regular fall sports season to as late as Nov. 30. Those options are non-binding and are essentially part of the discussion process.

Next week, the FHSAA will get further input after the Sports Medicine Advisory Committee meets. That committee, referred to as the SMAC, provided a report that wound up swaying board members during a second emergency board meeting.

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.