As the school year steadily approaches, those in charge of athletics are still unsure of the appropriate course of action.
Though the Florida High School Athletic Association is still tentatively scheduled to begin its fall sports season on July 27, its Fall Sports Task Force met virtually via Zoom on Wednesday morning to discuss any needed changes.
Citing a rise in cases across the state, the task force voted, 8-7, to propose moving the start of the season back to any time from Aug. 10 to Aug. 22 — roughly when the school year is set to begin.
However, the proposal must now be approved by the FHSAA Board of Directors before it can become official.
“The recommended vote is to start August 10, definitely no earlier than that,” FHSAA Board President-elect Lauren Otero said during the meeting.
FHSAA Associate Executive Director for Athletic Services Justin Harrison proposed four options for a return date.
The first option, which was a return from July 27 to Aug. 8, was shot down by the task force. Options two through four, however, are still in play.
The second option would see a return any time from Aug. 10 — Aug. 22. The third option would have athletes begin their fall season any time from Aug. 24 — Sept. 5. The fourth option would have a window of return from Sept. 7 to beyond.
Under this proposal, principals must commit each sport to a return date, though it would be allowed for some sports to return at different times.
Once an option is selected there will be a minimum two-week tryout and practice period, pushing the start of the regular season back to Sept. 14 at the earliest — meaning Kickoff Classics and the first four regular season games for football would be canceled or postponed. But it won’t just be football that will be affected, as cross country, golf, swimming and volleyball were all scheduled to begin the regular season on Aug. 17.
As of now, the end of the regular season has not changed and the FHSAA has not decided on whether or not it will host a state series this year, saying it’s “too premature” to lean one way or another.
Due to the varying degrees of severity in the coronavirus outbreak throughout the state, the FHSAA is recommending that schools are paired in classifications based on when they return to sports. Though there can be more than one classification for each option, there must be more than 100 schools per classification.
The issue of protocols for officials were also discussed, with Mid Coast Officials Association President John Scarpino noting that officials are typically in the at-risk category of over 65 years old.
“Realistically, the guys are going to officiate at their comfort level,” he said. “So if the guys aren’t comfortable stepping on the field or the basketball court, they’re not gonna do it. That could be an issue as we move forward with COVID-19.”
Between deciding on an official start date to monitoring the spread of the virus throughout the state and coming up for a plan that works for everyone, there are countless hurdles for the FHSAA to overcome in its return to play.
Only time will tell if those hurdles are too much to overcome.