Opportunity for the students

"We want to see opportunity for the students, and we want to see, obviously, with a parental choice for them to be able to exercise that for distance learning if they want. But I think we just have to give as many opportunities for kids as possible."

If you drive along 27th Avenue by Miami Dade College North Campus, you may notice the road to Nathaniel “Traz” Powell stadium is barricaded off from vehicular traffic. The reason being is due to COVID-19. High school sports and students in general have been affected by this pandemic. The Florida High School Sports Athletic Association (FHSAA) decided in their Board of Directors meeting on July 20, 2020 to continue on with fall camps as originally planned for July 27.

The motion was made by FHSAA board member and Wewahitchka High School football coach Bobby Johns which was a three part motion: (1) To maintain the calendar to start July 27 with fall practices; (2) To establish a date with intent to declare for state series; and (3) If a team decides to opt-out of the state series, they can continue to play regular season games through the end of the state series.

It took the FHSAA nearly 4 hours and 30 minutes to come to this decision. The vote went against the Sports Medicine Advisory Committee’s (SMAC) recommendation to delay the start of the high school football season. Dr. Jennifer Maynard, the chair of the FHSAA's SMAC presented recommendations for student-athletes to return to play: Overall downward trajectory for positive cases, less than a 5% positivity rate for cases over a 28-day period and at least two weeks of practice before competition to allow for appropriate heat acclimation and conditioning. SMAC ultimately recommended delaying the start of the football and girl's volleyball seasons until further notice.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis recently called the potential cancelation of high school sports for the fall semester "devastating" and championed a hope for a return to the gridiron later on this fall. "We’ve got a lot of young kids who this is their ticket to be able to go to college through athletics," DeSantis said. "We want to see opportunity for the students, and we want to see, obviously, with a parental choice for them to be able to exercise that for distance learning if they want. But I think we just have to give as many opportunities for kids as possible."

Several Board members were concerned about the financial impact of delaying the start of the season. Board members even stated that financially their schools are hurting due to the lack of activity. Bobby Johns stated “We play our biggest rival in the Kickoff Classic. That is a $16K gate.” It’s also no secret that the FHSAA also has a revenue stream from ticket sales during the state series.

Back in December 2019, seven South Florida High School Football teams went and participated in the FHSAA state football championships and all seven returned home champions from class 2A-8A. Three out of the seven schools were from Miami-Dade Public Schools: Booker T. Washington Senior High School (4A), Miami Northwestern Senior High School (5A) and Miami Central Senior High School (6A). Was this a ploy to handicap South Florida to participate in the State Series in 2020? Some may say so, even though Miami-Dade County leads the state of Florida in positive cases for COVID-19 and there is no way possible at the moment for contact sports to be safe. If one thing is for sure this is bigger than just football. Maybe it is time for the Greater Miami Athletic Conference (GMAC) and the Broward County Athletic Association (BCAA) to leave the FHSAA since they are being showed that revenue is more important that student and staff safety.

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