FHSAA board set to vote Monday on major football changes in the state

Creekside running back Preston Strope barrels through Ponte Vedra defenders during a Week 10 game. (Ralph D. Priddy) (Ralph D. Priddy, News4Jax)

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Big changes, possibly the biggest ever for high school football in the state, could be on the way as early as Monday.

The Florida High School Athletic Association is mulling a significant makeover for the sport, which includes changes in the regular season and playoffs across the state in what could be the biggest shift in years.

The seismic change — taking the eight largest counties in the state, which includes Duval County, and putting them in a four-classification metro division. The remaining 59 counties in Florida would be divided into suburban and rural and split among five classes.

That would mean nine state champions and a more equitable playing field, say coaches behind the plan. The groundwork done by various committees have ranged from unanimous support to narrow support.

Radical? Too much, too soon? Not enough? Data from various committees in this process — which has been discussed for more than a year — point to a desire for change. Under the current format, private- and metro-area programs dominate year after year. With open enrollment now state law and transfers booming like never before, one way to level the playing field and ultimately get the best games in the postseason is to consider shaking up the norm.

The football advisory committee has voted unanimously in both 2021 and ‘22 to proceed with the suburban/metro overhaul. The athletic director’s advisory committee voted against the plan in 2021 but voted for the plan this year. Both of those votes were 8-7 against and for. According to Joshua Wilson of FloridaHSFootball.com, the operations committee supported the football changes in a 3-2 vote on Sunday.

The committee votes are non-binding until measures on voted on by the full FHSAA board of directors.

Outgoing executive director George Tomyn did not recommend the proposal.

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.