The Florida High School Athletic Association has spent most of the last two months talking about ways to move forward on a high school season, but has yet to provide any answers.
The FHSAA seemingly does not want to be the “bad guy” in canceling or postponing seasons or requesting people to quarantine.
If they don’t come up with some protocols, though, this season is doomed from the start. With that in mind, the Sun Sports staff proposes a plan in the form of an open letter to the organization.
To the FHSAA,
There’s no right answer to the problem at hand.
Whichever path you choose, someone will be upset. Already, certain parts of the state are unhappy with the fall sports season being pushed back into late August.
But there’s still time to get this right.
The Board of Directors are scheduled to meet before Aug. 17 to discuss how to move forward. In the meantime, the Sun has spoken with several area coaches and athletic directors to gauge the pulse of those involved in high school sports.
While there’s no simple solution, there are options worth exploring.
Push football and volleyball into the winter
A motion to move football and volleyball into the winter or spring was made during the last FHSAA Board of Directors meeting, but was ultimately withdrawn.
However, this is the most reasonable option.
The FHSAA’s Sports Medicine Advisory Committee voted unanimously to postpone the football and volleyball seasons. Both sports require close contact for long periods of time, and therefore pose a higher risk of spreading the virus.
If these sports were pushed back, it would allow for more time for the outbreak to get under control. And it could give schools a chance at hosting some fans at games — providing necessary finances to run athletic budgets.
“Why rush it? I don’t understand,” Venice High athletic director Pete Dombroski said. “Let’s just wait and see what happens. We need the fans there, too, and that’s the other part of it. I don’t know how we exist without the fans.
“Kids want to play in front of people.”
Dombroski said without the certainty of revenue from a football season, he’s stopped purchasing orders for new equipment and is taking a close look at the travel budget for the year.
A new sports calendar
If you push football and volleyball out of the fall sports season, the rest of the year will be impacted, too. Some fall sports that require little to no close contact — golf, cross country and swim and dive — could hold a fall season from around Sept. 1 to Nov. 15.
Let’s also move another non-contact sport, tennis, from spring to the fall.
However, these sports would have to be monitored closely. Attendance should be limited to players’ families and protocols for temperature and wellness tests should be put in place.
For this to work, schedules would have to be remade and schools would have to ensure they could find enough officials, trainers and administrators to staff games.
“I don’t think any plan is too hard to do,” Charlotte High athletic director Brian Nolan said. “I don’t think it’s too much to ask to move around our schedule a bit.
“I’m a planner and a schedule-guy. But I keep ripping things up because the situation changes every week. So I don’t think anything is off the table to get these kids some games.”
Football and volleyball would be pushed back to a special late fall season that could run from Nov. 16 to approximately Jan. 15.
It may be that by mid-November, positive cases have not trended downward enough to play football in particular, but it does provide a window to figure it out and buy everyone involved some additional time.
The start of the winter season would be pushed back until Jan. 16 and run until April 1. All of the normal winter sports would be played in this time period with the exception of wrestling. Given the close contact and potential for transmission in wrestling rooms and on the mats, an abundance of caution only makes sense here.
Finally, the spring season would run from April 2 to approximately June 15. The school year has already been pushed back a couple of weeks — from Aug. 10 to Aug. 31 — so a mid-June end date does not seem outrageous. If there are seniors who graduate before the end of the season, they would have the opportunity to play until the end or opt out.
Everyone on the same page
The most important step is getting buy-in from around the state.
With all of these schools playing each other and building schedules and seasons relying on one another, it’s impossible to create any sort of even playing field without everyone playing by the same rules.
But what happens when a player or a coach tests positive for the virus?
The FHSAA has suggested that local health experts deal with these matters, but there needs to be a uniform protocol to follow.
If a player tests positive, they should have to quarantine from school and athletics for two weeks. The tricky part is in deciding how to deal with people who have been in close contact with an infected individual.
It may be difficult to police and tracking will have to rely on some personal accountability.
Just this past weekend the Miami Marlins learned they had players infected with the virus, but decided to play. If it’s difficult to contain this virus with the resources of MLB, it’s going to be even tougher for high schools.
“That scared the heck out of me,” Nolan said. “I know that they’re in a controlled environment, and we’re not. It’s unavoidable. Some school, hopefully not us, but some school will have an outbreak. It’s going to happen.
“That’s the No. 1 problem. What does that affect? What do you have to shut down? No one seems to have the answer.”