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State high school task force suggests delaying start of fall sports

Under the Florida High School Athletic Association proposal, schools would not begin practices until Aug. 10 at the earliest.

The state’s high school sports governing body is expected to vote on a plan in the next couple of weeks that essentially would push the start of its fall sports calendar to nearly mid-August.

Meeting virtually for the third time Thursday evening, a Florida High School Athletic Association task force seemed mostly in agreement on a “Plan B” that would divide its member schools into one of three divisions for the fall sports season, based on the severity of the COVID-19 crisis in their respective communities.

Schools in Division I, for instance, would start practices for fall sports Aug. 10, with regular-season contests starting no earlier than Aug. 31.

Division II schools would start practices Aug. 24 and open their regular season no earlier than Sept. 14. Division III schools would begin practices Sept. 7 and games Sept. 28.

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The Florida High School Athletic Association board of directors will meet later this month, at a date not yet announced, to formally vote on the recommendation or consider other options. For now, the current state calendar — which calls for fall sports practices to begin July 27 — remains unchanged.

“There’s no perfect plan,” said Clearwater Central Catholic athletic director John Gerdes, a task force member.

“I’m not convinced (the divisional plan) is where we’ll end up or where we should end up, but it does provide flexibility at least. ... We’re just not gonna find a one size fits all.”

One sticking point of the divisional plan involves the classification of schools. Justin Harrison, a veteran Florida High School Athletic Association staffer credited with designing the division format, said schools would be re-classified (by population) based on the division they enter.

Whether that results in more state champions and more playoff games — or any type of playoff system at all — remains unclear.

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“If we had to go to this (division format) as an idea or a concept, the current 8A, 7A, 6A ― that would not exist anymore,” Harrison said. “So that’s why we want to try to hold on to (the current calendar) and not have to go to this.”

Other topics addressed during Thursday’s meeting — which spanned more than two hours — included monitoring of game officials for COVID-19, and whether fans would be permitted at fall sports contests. Executive director George Tomyn said attendance would be determined at a local level.

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