With the recent spike in reported COVID-19 cases in Florida, it probably came as no surprise Wednesday morning when the Fall Sports Task Force recommended that the Florida High School Athletic Association move back its start date for fall sports practices.
The original practice start date for all fall sports including football was Monday, July 27. The task force’s recommendation is to now wait until “no earlier” than Monday, Aug. 10. The Task Force was created to brainstorm return-to play-issues for schools and teams that have been shut down since mid-March.
That shift, which would also push the start of play back, could be enacted by FHSAA executive director George Tomyn and his staff in the coming days without approval of the association’s board of directors, which is not scheduled to meet until Sept. 20-21.
“No final decision has been made at this time and we need to make that very clear,” Tomyn told the Orlando Sentinel. “There’s been great dialogue and discussion.”
“There was no actual vote, just a variety of opinions and a lot of discussion on various recommendations we could give the FHSAA,” said Rocky Gillis, Broward County Athletic Association Director and a member of the task force. “Nothing has been completely decided at this point. It will ultimately be up to the FHSAA.”
This could also possibly create a “floating start date” plan, which would offer several start dates that schools and school districts could select based on the coronavirus climate and return to classroom plans in their area.
This would create separate playoff brackets. For example, teams that start on Aug. 10 would only compete in the postseason against other teams that started on Aug. 10.
If your school doesn’t start practicing until September, you’ll face other teams that started in September.
“The [Miami-Dade County] school board is currently meeting on this so I really can’t comment on anything at this moment,” said Carlos Ochoa, athletic director at Hialeah Gardens and another member of the task force.
According to FHSAA administrator Justin Harrison, the FHSAA could then create separate playoffs brackets based on when teams starting practicing to ensure safety and competitive equity.
In theory, teams that opened practice in September would be in a different tournament than those that practiced the week of Aug. 10.
“That would free up schools to make the decisions that fit them best while answering concerns about competitive equity and safety for football teams that may be weeks behind others in conditioning and weight training,” Harrison told the Sentinel.
As drafted, Harrison’s proposal would not change end dates for fall sports so as to not impact the scheduled start of winter and spring sports.
Games are currently set to start with preseason play Aug. 10-15 and regular-season openers the following week.
Those dates in theory would move back two weeks if the Aug. 10 practice start date is adopted.