The state’s governing body for high school sports made the announcement Monday afternoon.
There will be no more sports for Florida high schools this semester, the FHSAA announced shortly after noon Monday.
One day after Governor Ron DeSantis announced schools statewide would remain closed through the end of the 2019-20 school year, the FHSAA decided to follow suit.
“The safety of our student-athletes, coaches, officials, and fans is our top priority,” the FHSAA said in a press release. “With the evolving threat of the coronavirus (COVID-19), we must ensure that we do not contribute to the spread of this illness. We are deeply saddened for our student-athletes who have seen their seasons and/or high school careers end so abruptly. Our association knows the impact and role high school athletics play in the lives of so many and will continue to work towards the betterment of high school sports. We know this is a trying time, but the health and safety of all is of utmost importance to this Association.”
The association previously considered extending the spring season through June 30, but that was dependent on schools reopening May 3. The FHSAA announced in March it was anticipating the possibility of this shutdown and “working diligently to create a plan” for granting additional eligibility for students who have not been able to play spring sports. Monday’s press release said the association ultimately decided against granting extra eligibility after input from the Florida Department of Education and “review of the Florida Statutes and FHSAA Bylaws,” specifically citing three bylaws relevant to the decision-making process:
Bylaw 9.4.7 – Student Must be an Undergraduate:
• In accordance with FHSAA Bylaw 9.4.7, a student must be an undergraduate: 9.4.7 Student Must be an Undergraduate. A student must not have completed the terminal grade of high school in the secondary education system of the U.S. or any other country. The terminal grade of the student is based on the graduation requirements of the country the student last attended school, including the completion of the GED or its equivalent.
• Florida Statute 1003.4282(6) outlines the requirements necessary for a student to be considered a graduate of high school. Once a student has met these requirements, he/she is no longer eligible to participate.
Bylaw 9.5.1 – Limit of Eligibility:
• In accordance with FHSAA Bylaw 9.5.1, a high school student (grades 9-12) is limited to eight (8) consecutive semesters of eligibility: 9.5.1 High School Student Has Eight Semesters of Eligibility. A student is limited to eight consecutive semesters of eligibility beginning with semester he/she begins ninth grade for the first time. This does not imply that the student has eight semesters of participation. After eight consecutive semesters, the student is permanently ineligible.
• If a student enters a 9th semester of high school, he/she is no longer eligible to participate.
Bylaw 9.5.2 – Limit of Eligibility (grades 6th, 7th and 8th):
• In accordance with FHSAA Bylaw 9.5.2, a middle school student (grades 6-8) is limited to one (1) year of eligibility in each grade level: 9.5.2 A 6th, 7th or 8th Grade Student Has 1-Year Limit of Eligibility in Each Grade. A 6th, 7th or 8th grade student may participate during their first year in each grade level. A 6th, 7th or 8th grade student who repeats a grade will not be eligible during the grade being repeated.
Schools do have the option to appeal an ineligible ruling or determination on a student’s behalf according to FHSAA Bylaw 10.4.1, however.
With spring sports canceled, the FHSAA said it now hopes to get back on track in time for the start of the 2020-21 school year with no more COVID-related interruptions.
Area athletes and coaches were universally disappointed to see the season end like this, even if they weren’t all shocked. They’ve already had conversations about it and knew the shutdown was highly plausible. Plant City High School’s track and field teams, for example, recently had this talk in a big Zoom video meeting and took DeSantis’s weekend decision to keep schools closed as a sign of things yet to come.
“It’s a bummer,” PCHS track coach Drew Martucci said. “I really feel for the seniors. Any coach would say you never want to see a senior lose out on those opportunities. We had a few that were probably state bound this season and now they won’t get the opportunity.”
Durant baseball catcher Coleton Brogden, a senior, said the reality of the decision hadn’t fully sunk in for him on Monday but expected it to hit eventually.
“It’s definitely upsetting, very upsetting not having a senior night, not having all your friends at your games anymore, not being able to go to prom this year, not having my signing day, not being able to hang out with the boys… it’s a little upsetting,” Brogden said. “But as one door closes, I guess another one opens. We’ll just see what goes on.”
Many teams took to their social media accounts to share the news and honor their seniors. Strawberry Crest baseball coach Eric Beattie, for example, wrote a heartfelt letter to his group of five seniors and posted it on the @baseball_crest Twitter account as a thread roughly two hours after the FHSAA went public with the decision.
“I love you guys and I have total peace knowing you’re gonna crush the life in front of you,” Beattie wrote.