GAINESVILLE, Fl. — The decision to begin fall sports August 24th was not an easy one made Friday by the Florida High School Athletic Association's Board of Directors. That's what the Board wants people to understand, but it was a decision they made together, and one they said they are sticking by.
"It's like Christmas morning right here. Like Santa Claus came you know?" laughed Madison County head football coach Mike Coe.
For Coe, Friday's decision to start fall sports on August 24th couldn't have turned out any better.
"I've got parents texting me already and kids texting me and coaches from all across the state."
The FHSAA voted 11 to 5 to allow teams to start if you can, if not, teams can make their own schedules. The reason? It gives teams the flexibility to start seasons when they feel it's possible to do so.
"Local districts and local schools make the determination whether they're going to offer sports or not and then students have the opportunity to play or not and to participate," said George Tomyn, the FHSAA's Executive Director:
Richard Finlayson, principal at Aucilla Christian in Monticello agreed. "We are allowing local leaders to be responsible with the appropriate mitigation strategies in place. We have great confidence that those leaders will do what's best to protect those individual schools and student athletes."
Not everyone on the Board was pleased with the decision.
"With football, it seems to me we already had a health risk and now we're adding an additional health risk even if those coaches think they've been out there training enough or not," said John Gerdes during Friday's meeting. Gerdes is the Athletic Director at Clearwater Central Catholic.
Seven of last year's eight State Champions in football are from South Florida, teams that potentially won't start on time.
"I think there will always be an asterisk next to this year because of COVID-19, there's not doubt about that," said Tomyn.
But for Madison County's Coe, the lone state Champion from North Florida, the time to play is now.
"I know this thing is real. I've had it," he said. "I think there's other factors too. Depression, suicide rate, crime rate, all those things. I feel like kids will be a lot safer with us after school out in the heat, following the protocols. I just think it's a win for kids today."
The proposal to allow fall sports teams to begin practice if they're able was made by Carlos Ochoa, an Athletic Driector from Miami. For football, the last regular season game will take place on Nov. 6, with regional and state finals taking place after that.
The golf and girls volleyball seasons will last six weeks, with the final regular season contests taking place on Oct. 10, followed by district and regional tournaments and state finals.
The cross country season will last seven weeks, with the final regular season race taking place on Oct. 17, followed by district and regional tournaments and state finals.
The swimming and diving season will also last seven weeks, with the final regular season meet taking place on Oct. 17, and district, regional, and state meets after that.
For bowling, the season will last eight weeks, with the final regular season contest taking place on Oct. 24, followed by district tournaments and state finals.