High school sports were scheduled to begin on Monday across Florida, but the outbreak of the coronavirus has put that on hold for now.
In the meantime, the Florida High School Athletic Association has been discussing the best way to move forward with a fall season. So far, however, several meetings and hours of talking has only resulted in putting the season on pause — until at least Aug. 24.
The FHSAA Board of Directors is scheduled to meet again by Aug. 17 to evaluate new data about the virus and vote on a return date.
As originally reported by the Herald Tribune and confirmed to the Sun by the FHSAA, the organization has been discussing three options for a timeline of athletics this fall.
“I find this to be a little late,” North Port athletic director Tony Miller said of the FHSAA’s plan. “I feel like this is something they should have been working on a while ago.
“You watch the first meeting, which was five hours and then this past one, and you think, ‘Are they really leading our athletics in Florida? Or are they just trying to manage it?’”
Option 1 would begin the fall sports season on Aug. 24, with competition beginning Sept. 7. Teams would then play the current calendar all the way through the state series.
This would mean starting the season in Week 3 — guaranteeing the loss of some games.
“I don’t like the first option because then we’re picking up where we left off and we’re losing football games,” Miller said. “And everyone knows that football is what drives the rest of the sports, because that’s where our finances come from. To lose out on football games, that’s kind of tough.
“The next two options, to me, are more reasonable.”
While finances are certainly on the minds of many athletic directors, most football coaches have expressed other concerns about the season. For DeSoto County head football coach Bumper Hay, it would be difficult to replace the $30,000 in ticket sales his team brings in each year, but it might be even tougher to make up for lost opportunities for his players.
“I think the biggest thing for any coach is making sure their juniors and seniors have some sort of game film,” Hay said. “We have Keimar (Richardson) who has Division-I size and talent, and if he lost his senior year, there’s no telling what could happen.”
In Option 2, athletics will return some time after August, with the regular season beginning at least two weeks after practice begins. The biggest difference in this option is that when the season ends on Nov. 28, there would be a regional or local FHSAA tournament — not a traditional state series.
Option 3 takes a drastically different approach.
In this option, the three sports seasons would all be shortened — with the first season going from Nov. 30 to Jan. 23, the second from Feb. 15 to April 3 and the third from April 26 to June 12.
There would also be some sport reassignment in this option, with girls weightlifting being moved up to the fall while golf and swim and dive are moved to the spring and tennis, water polo and flag football are moved up to winter.
“I don’t want to wait until November to start,” Charlotte High football coach Wade Taylor said. “If the numbers start to go down and we’re allowed to play, I’d rather play. Our kids are ready to go. It would be nice to play with fans in the stands. I was told the other day there’s a chance we could get 25% of the stands full, but I don’t even know if that’s true.
“It would be tough for these kids to hold on until November. That’s a long time to work out and not play football.”
Depending on which, if any, of the plans are chosen, the landscape of high school sports could look much different this year. Anything from shortened seasons, to different calendars and new protocols are all steps that could be taken to play high school sports this season.
Exactly what that will look like and when it will happen are still yet to be determined.