The Florida High School Athletic Association has chosen to stay in tune with the 2020 high school football season, board chair Lauren Otero announced at Monday’s board meeting.
Concerns over the increased spread of COVID-19 in the state of Florida prompted Monday’s meeting, which lasted nearly five hours, to take place.
Dr. Jennifer Maynard, Chair of the FHSAA Sports Medicine Advisory Committee (SMAC), offered recommendations for student-athletes to return to the game. SMAC ultimately recommended delaying the start of the women’s football and volleyball seasons. until further notice.
The SMAC also recommended a trio of benchmarks so that wholesale, state-wide recommendations come into play: 1) overall downward trajectory for positive cases, 2) less than 5% positivity rate for cases over a 28 day period and 3) at least two weeks of practice prior to competition to allow for proper acclimatization and conditioning to the heat.
Over the past month, the FHSAA established a COVID-19 task force to hear proposals from state coaches. This group recommended postponing high school track and field for almost two weeks until Monday, August 10. No practice would be authorized by an FHSAA member school prior to this date. According to this plan, regular season athletic competition would have started on August 31, September 14 or September 21.
This task force’s three-step plan to return to high school sports was rejected by a unanimous 16-0 vote.
For several hours, a discussion ensued on a possible plan to postpone the first official date for practice from the fall to August 10, so that the board could do more research on the recommendations made by the SMAC. Board member Mark Schusterman, co-athletic director of Riviera Prep in Miami ultimately withdrew this motion.
Instead, Wewahitchka’s head football coach Bobby Johns passed a motion asking the FHSAA to keep its schedule intact for a July 27 start date, allowing schools and individual districts to decide in ultimately when their athletes could resume training. FHSAA Executive Director George Tomyn also backed a July 27 start date throughout the meeting.
Johns’ motion outlined three main points: 1) keeping the schedule together for a July 27 start date, 2) setting a date for individual schools to declare playing in the FHSAA State Series, and 3) allowing a school will more regularly schedule seasonal games if it chooses not to participate in the state playoff competition.
This motion was carried with a 10 to 5 vote.
Meanwhile, Board Chair Lauren Otero has moved a motion to pass the SMAC Part II recommendation to have a uniform coronavirus questionnaire among FHSAA members. The Plant High Athletic director’s motion failed with a 12-4 vote – the second time that night, Otero was on the other end of a motion.
The newly elected chairman of the board spoke bluntly about the FHSAA leadership throughout the night, telling Tomyn directly that public school superintendents have sought FHSAA athletic advice to no avail.
“There has been a lack of decision-making leadership from the FHSAA in what I’ve heard from individuals,” she said. ” I ask for leadership from you and your staff. It was not posted. We are members of this council and have full time jobs to do other things. Not doing day-to-day FHSAA operations. ”
Even throughout its five-hour meeting, the FHSAA did not take a single question from the audience, having disabled the chat feature in the Zoom Lobby and YouTube feed. Members of the public were able to send their questions to a designated email (which was set up mid-session), but these matters were not addressed until council voted on the motions presented.
The FHSAA has allowed individual schools and school districts to make their own plans for returning to summer training and conditioning, amid the coronavirus pandemic. Many school districts authorized a restart on June 15 – some private schools began as early as June 1.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis recently called the potential cancellation of high school sports for the fall semester “devastating” and defended hopes of a return to the grill in the fall.
« We have a lot of young kids for whom this is their ticket to be able to go to college through athletics, ”said DeSantis.We want to see the opportunity for the students, and we want to see, obviously, with parental choice so that they can exercise that for distance learning if they want to. But I think we just need to give children as many opportunities as possible. ”
Florida’s total coronavirus cases on Monday reached 360,000, with 10,508 new cases reported on Sunday, according to the Florida Department of Health’s COVID-19 dashboard. 5,072 Florida residents have died. Miami-Dade County has been hardest hit by the coronavirus, with the county reporting 87,035 cases and 1,309 deaths, both as head of the state of Florida on Monday.