Monday’s nearly five-hour board meeting seemed like a colossal waste of time for everyone involved.
One thing I think we can all agree on is that nobody likes a meeting that didn’t need to happen. I’d bet this is especially true when you’re stuck in it for almost five hours and most of them were spent getting absolutely nowhere.
So, if you were one of the thousands who tuned in to the FHSAA’s emergency board meeting Monday evening, you’re probably feeling that way. If you didn’t know about it, the meeting was called and ultimately addressed the existing sports calendar.
Here’s the short version: the July 27 start date for fall practices was upheld by a 10-5 vote and another meeting is scheduled for Friday to revisit the issue.
Here’s the longer version: despite the facts the FHSAA didn’t allow live public comments or address public comments directly in the meeting, didn’t have the report it requested from its own Sports Medicine Advisory Committee (SMAC) and doesn’t have complete authority over when schools can get back out there — some teams will have to start later than others due to their districts’ own COVID-19 restrictions and, in some cases, the state’s — the board went ahead and made decisions anyway.
The good news about the July 27 start date is that it’s not a date in which all teams are forced to go back out there and practice if their school districts will allow them to do so. Teams and schools can wait it out if they choose. However, without any kind of autonomy it’s possible for schools that start earlier than others to recruit athletes.
The FHSAA also agreed to give individual schools a date to declare intent to play in a state series and, if they opt out, to schedule more regular-season games. To me, this looks like a hard-line effort to keep the status quo going because maybe it’s just easier that way.
But there was an elephant in the Zoom. The board didn’t get the SMAC report until the meeting. No one had time to read it, digest its contents and talk to SMAC members. They voted on stuff anyway and agreed to the next meeting (5 p.m. tonight) so that everyone could have a chance to read the report.
What the heck is that?
Why bother meeting at all when a report hugely relevant to the future of Florida high school sports, a report the FHSAA asked for, wasn’t even on the table? Why not just wait until everyone had it to call the first meeting? If that one would have run five hours long, at least it would have made more sense considering they’d have that information on hand and there must be much to discuss within it.
The SMAC wants for football and volleyball to wait a bit longer to start given that those two sports are the most risky of the fall group (which also includes cross country, golf, swimming and diving, as well as bowling for FHSAA schools that offer it) as far as transmission potential goes. The SMAC believes statewide cases need to drop to more manageable numbers and positive test percentages, then give programs two weeks to work up to their seasons with heat acclimation and injury prevention.
The FHSAA’s COVID-19 Task Force recommended pushing the practice start date back from July 27 to August 10, which would move the return to competition back to the very end of August at the earliest, and adopt a new classification system moving schools to new districts and regions based on when they’re able to restart. That idea was shot down, 16-0. Lauren Otero, president of the board and athletic director at Plant High School, moved to implement a COVID-19 questionnaire for FHSAA member schools — another SMAC recommendation. That idea was shot down, 12-4.
I personally don’t understand the decision to completely ignore your own medical committee, which does contain legitimate doctors, but I don’t make the rules. I just write about them. I just wonder how you can see Texas moving its biggest football classes’ start dates back by a month and not take that as a wake-up call. Do you know how bad something has to be to get Texans to change their high school football plans? They’re the ones willing to spend $60 million to build a stadium in which to watch kids who aren’t even old enough to vote play football!
In response to the meeting, Hillsborough County Public Schools Superintendent Addison Davis announced Tuesday the start of athletics and extracurriculars in Hillsborough would be delayed two weeks and start Aug. 10.
Otero criticized FHSAA executive director George Tomyn for the FHSAA’s approach to leadership — or a “lack of leadership,” she said — throughout the time of COVID-19.
“I am asking for leadership from you and your staff,” Otero said. “It has not been displayed. We serve on this board and have full-time jobs doing something else. Not to make the day-to-day operations of the FHSAA.”
I see where Otero is coming from. It’s basically a free-for-all right now and, to me, it appears the FHSAA is willing to sit back and let whatever happens happen. We’ll see what the next board meeting brings, and I’m hoping fully introducing the SMAC report and giving board members the time to study it will lead to better-informed discussions and decisions. I don’t think it could possibly be any worse than Monday’s meeting, though I also think the bar for that is so low you could trip over it if you drag your feet.
Everyone from individual sports teams on up to the school districts themselves are looking to the FHSAA for leadership right now. There’s still time to give the masses something to be confident in. If the FHSAA stays its course, there’s no telling exactly what will happen with its member schools — but there’s a real chance the organization may not like it.
Correction: The print version of this article had a Monday date for the next FHSAA meeting. That meeting will take place at 5 p.m. tonight and will be viewable on the official FHSAA YouTube channel.