The statewide governing body of high school sports is preparing to deal with the effects of COVID-19 on the spring sports schedule.
Hillsborough County Public Schools put a temporary stop to school and sports last week, which means there aren’t going to be any prep sports until at least April 15. For most teams, that means missing several weeks of games not including this week, which was supposed to be spring break anyway.
But spring sports regular seasons are also going to come to an end soon, and another thing that’s unclear is how the coronavirus will affect teams’ ability to qualify for the postseason.
The FHSAA announced last week schools and their districts are to keep following state and local health department advisories when deciding whether they’ll get teams on the field, and that no final decision has been made regarding upcoming state championship events. They also released information regarding make-up games, contest requirements and more.
Only schools and school districts, not the FHSAA, can decide whether to let teams play games or even hold practices. That means HCPS can and will decide when it’s appropriate for Plant City-area teams to get back to normal, though at press time no plans to extend the sports suspension were announced. Schools will have to work together to determine which games will be made up and when that will happen, though not all games come with contractual obligations for both teams to reschedule in the event of a pandemic, a hurricane or any other reason to cancel. If two teams did not draw up a contract for their game and there’s no agreement for a makeup date, the game will get retroactively cut from the schedule and neither team will get a win, loss or forfeit from it.
After that, the FHSAA itself comes into play. The organization did not plan to make any changes to the state series or championship schedules as of press time, though that could be subject to change as time passes and the state of the coronavirus impact is assessed. The current seeding structure for district tournaments and the qualification requirements for the regional rounds are not expected to change.
But missing games could impact teams’ ability to qualify for the playoffs at all, as the FHSAA enforces a minimum contest requirement for postseason eligibility. On that front, teams that are going to be affected by the minimum contest requirement will have to hope for a successful appeal from their school’s athletic director to the FHSAA.
Update (March 19): The FHSAA announced Wednesday night that all scheduled FHSAA conferences, meetings and athletic events until further notice, though the organization also has April 15 in mind and will assess its next move if schools and sports are up and running again at that time.
For more information as it develops, visit FHSAA.org or follow @FHSAA on Twitter.