There will be high school football in the Sunshine State this fall, but it comes with a catch for teams in South Florida.
Following a Zoom meeting that stretched from 5 p.m. to nearly 10 p.m. on Monday, the Florida High School Athletic Association’s Board of Directors voted to retain its fall sports calendar, including postseason dates, amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The board approved the proposal with a 10-5 vote, which means that practices can begin on July 27 as long as school district, county and local government rules approve of it.
In addition to maintaining the calendar, the motion requires schools to establish a date to declare whether they intend to participate in state series, which includes state playoff games. If a school decides to opt-out, they are allowed to schedule more regular-season games through the end of the state playoffs.
Now, what does this mean for teams in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties? These counties have emerged as COVID-19 “hotspots” and the chances of them starting on time are slim, which could make it harder for them to participate in the state playoffs.
Football coaches around South Florida aren’t happy with the FHSAA’s ruling on Monday, given that seven of the eight FHSAA football championships in 2019 came from Miami-Dade County and Broward County schools.
“[I] just wish they would have started the whole state August 10th [to] give time for numbers to decline,” said Dameon Jones, head coach at Chaminade Madonna.
The Board of Directors turned down various proposals from the Sports Medicine Advisory Committee (SMAC), which presented a series of recommendations — including a plan to push back the start of the fall sports to August 10.
“The state finally found a way to slow down Dade County,” tweeted Miami Columbus head coach Dave Dunn, who captured the Class 8A State Championship last year.
When asked what message he’d send to the board heading into the next meeting, Dunn replied, “We should follow the plan that California used moved their start time that benefits the majority of teams… This decision is alienating almost all large cities in the state.
Earlier Monday, the California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) announced it’s delaying all fall sports until December 2020 or January 2021 at the earliest, per a schedule released by the Central Section. Also Monday, the Georgia High School Association (GHSA) delayed the start of the football season two weeks, with the start of games being on September 4.
“[The FHSAA should] follow their mission statement that states, they provide a level, competitive playing opportunity,” said Miami Palmetto head coach Mike Manasco. “By not pushing back the starting date, they are eliminating South Florida from that. It’s embarrassing that this is even in doubt.
The FHSAA’s decision comes on a day in which the number of new coronavirus cases in Florida topped 10,000 for the fifth day in a row.
Champagnat Catholic head coach Hector Clavijo III took to Twitter to share his thoughts on how the season should play out.
“Push the season back to October, play District or region games only. If the region is large, split it in two, both winners go to the playoffs. Select amount per district/region for playoffs and go forward. No need to rush decision now. Less games is fine.”
Clavijo added that the FHSAA should also take into consideration the recommendations from the SMAC in order to ensure a safe season. He wants all schools to follow the same set of safety rules and guidelines and acknowledges that not all schools would participate.
There will be another FHSAA board meeting later this week or early next week that could reverse Monday night’s decision, according to FloridaHSFootball.com.