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FHSAA creates 3 options for delayed sports in 2020-21

Adam Fisher Naples Daily News
The Ledger

The Florida High School Athletic Association has drafted three options to begin sports after the start of the fall season was delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

While two effect only fall sports, including a proposal to eliminate state championships, one would alter the schedule of all sports for the 2020-21 school year.

The first plan calls for sports to begin Aug. 24, which is when fall practices are scheduled to start after the FHSAA board of directors voted to move the start of the season back from July 27 last week.

The second option is for starting at an undetermined time “after August,” according to the FHSAA document obtained by the Sarasota Herald-Tribune. The third option wouldn’t start sports until Nov. 30, and the regular seasons in all sports — fall, winter and spring — would be condensed to about five weeks.

The FHSAA emailed the proposed plans to members of its advisory committees in each sport on Tuesday. The fall sports advisory committees are meeting Wednesday and Thursday and will review the plans. The FHSAA will take recommendations and present its plan for 2020-21 to its board of directors, which is scheduled to meet by Aug. 17.

It is unclear whether the FHSAA will present all three options to the board and let members choose on the best one, or if the FHSAA will present just one option.

“I’ve seen something that states that the proposal has to go through all the different committees first and they’ll come up with something for the Board of Directors to vote on. That’s my understanding,” said Pete Crespo, athletic director for St. Lucie County schools. “Right now, what can you do? I’m sure it will change before the last vote. This is just a rough draft, basically.”

Option 1 in the FHSAA proposal would keep the playoff schedule in all fall sports the same and would not impact winter or spring. Games would begin Sept. 7 and teams would follow their current schedules, eliminating their first three weeks of games.

In Option 2, the fall regular-season games would begin two weeks after the start of practice is determined and the regular season would end Nov. 28. There would be no state championship tournaments in any fall sport, but regional or local playoff tournaments could be conducted Nov. 30-Dec. 12.

The winter and spring seasons would not be affected by Option 2.

Option 3 would adjust the entire FHSAA calendar for 2020-21 but would allow for state tournaments. Practices for fall sports would begin Nov. 30 and the regular season would be Dec. 14-Jan. 23. Winter practices would start Feb. 15 with the regular season running March 1-April 3. Spring would start April 26 with the regular season May 10-June 12.

In Option 3, tennis would be played during the winter season, and golf and swimming would move from fall to spring.

“I’m all for doing whatever we can to get back to normal. But it has to be done with safety as a priority,” Martin County schools athletic director Mark Cowles said. “If pushing back all seasons allowed us to do that, it seems like a great option.

“I think giving each sports season as much of a season as possible – done safely – is the thing we should move forward with, in my opinion.”

The FHSAA also provided a separate document addressing football in each return-to-play option. In Option 2, there would be no football playoffs. Option 3 states the playoffs would be run in “current format or (with) adjustments from the advisory committee/staff.”

If football practice starts Aug. 24, games would begin Sept. 11. Teams’ preseason games and Week 1 and 2 contests would be canceled. The final week of the regular season would be Nov. 6, a week later than planned for this season.

Football teams would have the choice to opt-in or out of the state series (tournament) in Option 1. Under that plan, all teams who choose to participate in the FHSAA tournament would receive a playoff bid.

There would be no district champions and no at-large bids using the current ratings percentage index. Seeding in each region would be determined by blind draw.

If there are more than 16 playoff teams in a region in Classes 5A-8A, or more than eight teams in 1A-4A, the first week of the postseason (Nov. 13) would be a series of play-in games. The regional quarterfinals would begin Nov. 20.

In Option 1, the FHSAA would create new classifications for this season after Oct. 12, the deadline for schools to opt into the state series. The smallest one-third of schools (based on enrollment) would be in Classes 2A-4A, while the biggest two-thirds would be in 5A-8A. Rural schools would remain in 1A.

— TCPalm reporter Jon Santucci and Sarasota Herald Tribune reporter Dennis Maffezzoli contributed to this article