FHSAA board member John Gerdes explains his voting decisions

Florida High School Athletic Association board member John Gerdes wrote a letter explaining his voting decisions from last week’s two emergency meetings that he shared with Prime Time Preps.

Gerdes, who also serves as Clearwater Central Catholic’s athletic director, voted against maintaining the July 27 start date for fall practices during the first meeting on July 20.

In the second meeting three days later, Gerdes said he would not have supported the initial recommendations from the Sports Medicine Advisory Committee before fall practices could begin. He voted for delaying the start of fall practices until Aug. 24.

As an FHSAA Board member, the past week was a rollercoaster ride regarding two meetings that led to opposing decisions. In the rear view mirror for now, I realize people will judge what the “right” or “wrong” vote was, although I suggest that task is difficult at best. With that said, I would like to address my two votes and that of every Board member.

I did a great deal of reading and communicated with a wide variety of athletics directors from Naples through Tampa Bay ahead of each meeting. I trust and believe each Board member did the same with their respective constituencies. In my case – and I assume with each Board member – there were opposing opinions, all from administrators and coaches I respect and proudly consider friends. Without question, I could find opinions – even from doctors – that would support each side of the play/delay debate.

To be clear, like anyone, I have personal opinions. Mine was that full-go football on July 27 was still risky in our specific case at Clearwater Central Catholic High School. But I recognized that was not the case for many schools in various places in the state. Generally speaking, I am all in on subsidiarity or local decision-making.

So, why did I vote against the July 27 start in the first meeting, and for a state-wide delay in the second meeting?

Having sat on the task force heading into the Board meetings, and in my discussions with administrators and coaches between those meetings, there were strong but respectful arguments presented on both sides. But there was also a clear consensus in my view that July 27 was too soon, and a delay until August 10 would at least allow more schools to be better prepared to start. In my mind, two weeks was not a huge deal and August 10 would have generated broad-based acceptance that we could set as a firm date. Based on my conversations with the people I represent in my region, that is why I voted against July 27.

In the second meeting, I would not have supported the initial motion to utilize the recommendations on data points to be met before football and volleyball could start. I felt it was essentially the end of fall football and volleyball. That was too extreme for me. While I would have preferred August 10, I felt August 24 was an acceptable compromise.

I realize August 24 is not set in stone as a start date, but my position is we (and I) should do everything we can to make that the case. That is my goal.

Whether I am judged as “right” or “wrong” in either vote is up to whomever wishes to weigh in. I made my decisions based on an effort to gather and consider as much information as possible. It was by no means easy.

Further, I have zero doubt that each Board member tried their best to do the same. While I have not yet met the three new Board members, I have come to know each remaining member to be thorough and deliberate in every single matter that has come before us. We are each blessed with different personalities and skill sets, and we cannot be expected to completely divorce ourselves from that. The result ranges from fiery passion to meticulous dissection to legal considerations to all points beyond. In the end, our personality and skills lead us to present our opinions accordingly. We should and do respect them all – even in opposition.

I extend these same thoughts to each and every member of the FHSAA staff, who regardless of what any critics maintain, work extremely hard and always with the goal of giving students an outstanding athletic experience. Agree with them or not, they deserve our respect and admiration.

I spoke of my belief in subsidiarity above, and I offer that it should be balanced with solidarity. It is my commitment to stand in solidarity with every FHSAA member school to do our absolute best to defeat the virus and get as many kids as possible back to full-go practice on August 24.

John Gerdes

FHSAA Board of Directors

Athletics Director – Clearwater Central Catholic High School

(By way of disclosure, should comments be posted I will not respond due to the possibility that other Board members may read and/or react, posing potential Sunshine Law conflicts. Feel free to e-mail me at jgerdes@ccchs.org. I will do my best to respond in timely fashion)