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Relief for scrambled schedules

The Florida High School Athletic Association on Tuesday waived the minimum participation requirement athletes and teams need to quality for the postseason. The state will consider more proposals to help ease the chaos four hurricanes have inflicted on high school athletics.

The rules state athletes and their teams need to participate in at least four events to be eligible for postseason play. But Hurricanes Charley, Frances, Ivan and Jeanne made that much more difficult this season for golfers, cross country runners and swimmers.

"We've got a great many schools that are just not going to be able to get four contests in in a lot of these sports," FHSAA director of communications Jack Watford said. "There are pockets in the state where pools schools used for competitions are so severely damaged they can't be used anymore."

The same goes for golf courses and race courses. What about team sports? Watford said football and volleyball teams need only play four games or the minimum number of district games required.

After Hurricane Frances, the FHSAA waived the limit on the number of contests athletes can participate in a given week to help ease the burden of playing all those makeups. But, as Watford pointed out, "at that time three weeks ago when that was done we didn't foresee two more hurricanes hitting."

Thus the FHSAA decided most schools don't have to make up those lost contests. Some, Watford said, don't have a choice. "There are some schools the only swim meet they'll be in is their district meet," he said.

At Monday's board meeting, several other hurricane relief proposals will be on the table.

Lengthening the season. Adding a week or two to the end of fall's regular season for all sports will be considered, Watford said. He added that it is a radical, and difficult, change to make. Dates already have been locked in for state championship venues. Volleyball, for example, is Nov. 10-13 at the Lakeland Center, while football is Dec. 9-11 at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium at Florida Field in Gainesville.

"It is extremely problematic in being able to work around the existing agreements with the hosts for these events," Watford said.

Any changes would have to be approved by those venues. If they aren't, then the state would find itself scrambling to find new championship sites weeks before they happen.

Allowing football teams who don't make the playoffs to make up canceled games after the regular season. Pinellas County wants to give its schools the option of a Week 11 to make up Week 2 games postponed by Hurricane Frances, but Watford said such a move needs the FHSAA's approval.

Teams already are permitted to play bowl games Nov. 10, 11 or 13 (a Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday to avoid conflicts with the Friday, Nov. 12 playoffs), provided their records are .500 or better. Waiving that would let schools have a Week 11, but raises another issue: What about nonplayoff teams that want to make up a game _ a game against a playoff team? Will schools be allowed to add teams to their schedules to get back up to 10 games?

The FHSAA has to decide what to do with the at-large playoff bids awarded in eight of the 28 regions, which are earned by total wins. Because of cancellations and postponements, that no longer is possible. "To level that playoff field out," Watford said, "we'll look at options as to what might be done on a region-to-region basis."

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