Playoff ban for new opt-in FHSAA members sparks ire
TAMPA - On April 14, Gov. Rick Scott signed into law an education bill that, in part, established changes to the present structure of the Florida High School Athletic Association, forcing the organization to allow schools to opt-in to membership on a per-sport basis.
Now the FHSAA - which has been in charge of high school athletics in Florida since 1920 - is fighting back with what some are calling "retaliatory" policies, and state legislators are threatening to take action.
Before the passage of House Bill 7029, schools were required to be full members of the FHSAA for all the sports in which they competed. The legislation, which goes into effect July 1, states that not only can private schools now join on a per-sport basis, but the FHSAA "may not discourage a private school from simultaneously maintaining membership in another athletic association."
Still, in the FHSAA's application for private school membership for the 2016-17 school year, it provides a chart listing the benefits of "full membership" and "partial membership," with the latter not including the option of participating in the state playoffs. Essentially, opt-in members will be treated like independent schools, which have to join a secondary athletic association in order to participate in postseason play.
"That language has never changed going back to 1999," said Kyle Niblett, FHSAA public relations specialist. "If they're a partial member, none of their sports can compete in the state playoffs."
As far as Rep. Ross Spano is concerned, that policy is in direct violation of the new law.