FHSAA board of directors vote to keep current fall sports schedule

The Florida High School Athletic Association’s board of directors unanimously voted to deny a three-phase plan for starting fall sports. 

FHSAA executive director George Tomyn had already recommended not adopting the proposal, which would have set staggered start dates for practices in cross country, football, golf and volleyball to give schools more flexibility, especially in areas hit hardest with COVID-19 cases. 

A motion by the board was approved to maintain the current allowable starting date for practices (July 27) and for schools to declare their state series intention by a certain date. Schools that decide not play in the state series can play regular season games through the end of the state series events on Dec. 12.

Though the dates remain the same, many area counties are still unsure whether they can move forward with practices next week.

Pinellas County athletic director Al Bennett said it would be unlikely any public school programs in that county teams will be able to start on July 27. 

“I’m just a little uncomfortable with that date right now,” Bennett said. 

Hillsborough County athletic director Lanness Robinson said he would need more information to know whether he can start on that date. Pasco County athletic director Matt Wicks said teams there could start this coming Monday. 

The Sports Medicine Advisory Committee (SMAC) recommended earlier in the meeting to delay the start of football and volleyball indefinitely and reassess plans to return every two weeks. The board voted to accept the report as information for now but not to adopt any recommendations.

Among the benchmarks suggested by SMAC for those sports to return.

  • A downward trajectory for positive tests. 
  • Less than five percent of positive cases during a 28 day period.
  • At least two weeks of practice before any competition to account for heat acclimation.

SMAC also recommended that all athletes who test positive sit out for 14 days, as well as anyone who comes within six feet for more than a 15 minute duration. 

Similar guidelines have already been established with nearly every county health department in the area. Pinellas County, for example, had four athletes test positive for COVID-19 during summer conditioning. Those athletes — and the coaches and teammates in their workout group — all were quarantined for 14 days according to Bennett. 

Hillsborough County also had athletes test positive during its first two phases of conditioning but Robinson said he was unsure of how many and in what sports. Pasco County has had no athletes test positive so far.

The decision not to heed the advice of medical experts did not sit well with some coaches.

“The FHSAA is ignoring the Mayo Clinic and listening to lying politicians who only care about money,” Northeast football coach Jeremy Frioud said. “If they think we are starting in a serious COVID hot spot then they can find someone else to do this job. I love my families and players’ families way too much.”