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FHSAA votes to start fall sports on Aug. 24

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The Florida High School Athletic Association board of directors voted to begin practices for fall sports on Aug. 24.

The board, which met in person in Gainesville, were considering three options for the high school sports calendar this year. Under option 1, which was approved by an 11-5 vote, the first allowable for practices in bowling, cross country, football, swimming and diving and volleyball is Aug. 24 with the first allowable regular season games or meets starting Sept. 4. 

That decision ended months of meetings with task forces, advisory committees and board members to determine how to shape a sports calendar while dealing with the coronavirus pandemic.

It also allows for some flexibility.

On Friday, the board also passed an amendment allowing schools or school districts the option to get out of the state series and create their own fall sports calendar with possible regional championships under the guidance of the FHSAA.

That concession was made to give counties hit hardest by the virus, such as Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach, more wiggle room to determine when it is safe to resume practices and games.

Many area counties also are opting to wait.

  • Pasco County athletic director Matt Wicks said public schools will not start practices until Sept. 7, in part to give county administrators two weeks worth of COVID-19 data to determine how many outbreaks there are once school starts.
  • Pinellas County’s return to play committee is meeting virtually on Monday to decide on a start date that will likely be pushed back a week or two.
  • Though Hillsborough County athletic director Lanness Robinson has not had any meetings with district officials about the FHSAA’s decision, he said he doesn’t anticipate anything changing in regards to the Aug. 24 start date.

Because of state, local and CDC guidelines, the seating capacity was capped at 50 for Friday’s meeting, which left just a handful available for the public and the media. The four hour meeting was available for the public to watch via a livestream provided by the NFHS Network.

Before any agenda item was discussed, the FHSAA allowed a few minutes of public comment. Jaime Kent, the Cambridge Christian parent who launched a #LetUsPlay petition on behalf of his son, Noah, made the trip.

Jaime and his wife, Tami both made impassioned pleas for the FHSAA to maintain its Aug. 24 start for fall sports practices. Their online petition drew more than 40,000 signatures in three days.

“I’m standing before you for 40,000 people,” Jaime said.

Among the other motions that passed were a COVID-19 liability waiver that would be available for schools. Nearly every area county already had their own waiver during summer conditioning.

The board also passed a motion requiring coaches to watch a COVID-19 safety video.