Hillsborough, Pasco and Pinellas among seven counties considering opting out of state series

Hillsborough, Pasco and Pinellas are among seven counties that are considering plans to opt out of the state series and form their own conference for this upcoming school year. 

The other counties included in the plan: Manatee, Orange, Osceola and Polk. 

“The discussions on this are still in the preliminary stages,” Pinellas County athletic director Al Bennett said. “We’ll have to get a lot of direction from management on this, but we’re trying to find ways where we can get these kids safely back out on the courts and on the fields.”

On Monday, the Florida High School Athletic Association’s board of directors voted to keep the current allowable starting date for practices on July 27 and for schools to declare their state series intention by a certain date. Schools that decide not to participate in the FHSAA playoffs can play regular season games through the end of the state series events on Dec. 12.

Though the date remains the same, nearly every area county has decided to wait before conducting their first official practices in cross country, football, golf and swimming. 

Bennett said public schools would not practice on July 27, though he has not been able to give a specific date when they can start. Hillsborough County pushed back practices to Aug. 10 and Pasco County moved them until Sept. 7. 

Under the proposal, the eight counties would all start practices after Labor Day. In football, there would be an eight-game regular season schedule with the openers on Sept. 25. The other sports would have roughly nine-week schedules.

All sports would have the option of a bowl or a playoff. 

The athletic directors in the eight counties plan to meet again on Tuesday.