Plan to shake up high school football in Florida goes to vote next month

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JACKSONVILLE, Florida. – Big changes, perhaps the biggest ever seen for high school football in the state, could be on the way.

The Florida High School Athletic Association is considering a major overhaul for the sport, which includes changes to the regular season and playoffs across the state in what could be the biggest change in years.

The Seismic Shift – taking the eight largest counties in the state, which includes Duval County, and placing them into a four-class metropolitan division. Florida’s remaining 59 counties would be divided into suburban and rural and divided into five classes.

That would mean nine state champions and a fairer playing field, say the coaches behind the plan. The Football Committee voted 9-0 earlier this month to proceed with the Suburban/Metro revamp. On Wednesday, the athletic directors’ advisory committee had seven votes not to approve the proposal and eight to approve it.

The power now rests with the board of directors. They meet on February 27 and 28 when the football overhaul will be voted on.

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Radical? Too too soon? Not enough? Input from various committees in this process – which has been under discussion for more than a year – indicates a desire for change. Under the current format, private and metropolitan programs dominate year after year. With open registration now state law and transfers booming like never before, one way to level the playing field and ultimately get the best playoff games is to consider shaking up the norm. .

“I believe there’s a super majority in the state of Florida that thinks the classification structure needs to change,” said Clay County district athletics coordinator John Sgromolo, who also sits on the board. advisory AD. “The devil is a bit in the details of what it should look like. There are differing opinions in the state of Florida on how this is going to play out.

The go-ahead was also won on Wednesday in the vote to replace the Football Ratings Percentage Index metric with the FHSAA Power Rankings, a system used by other major team sports to determine playoffs.

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Teams quickly figured out how to get the most out of the RPI system, which had been in place since 2019. A weak schedule could lead to eight-, nine-, or 10-win regular seasons for teams that were clearly not as good as the others. programs with more difficult schedules.

Additionally, districts could return to grades 1A-4A. Districts in these classifications disappeared beginning in 2017, with teams qualifying for the playoffs via points, and later, RPI. It was the biggest shakeup to the state’s playoff format since the FHSAA expanded the playoffs in 1993 and gave district runners-up a playoff berth.

So what does all this mean exactly?

Nothing now.

Committee votes are not binding until the FHSAA Board of Directors puts them to a formal vote. But if the board votes to pass the reshuffle, the biggest change to the playoffs in years is on the way.

If the proposed changes are approved, it would create an additional classification for what currently exists. Instead of all 67 counties in the state playing under one umbrella, Metro would take Florida’s eight largest counties — Broward, Duval, Hillsborough, Miami-Dade Orange, Palm Beach, Pinellas and Seminole — and put them into one. division. Schools would be separated into classes by enrollment. Suburbs and rural areas get the remaining schools from the other 59 counties, although rural areas remain Class 1A.

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Creekside football coach Sean McIntyre, who represents Division I in Florida with Chilean coach Kevin Pettis, said the plan as it currently stands provides a more level playing field. Schools in the eight major metropolitan areas have won 89% of state football championships over the past 10 seasons, according to data from the Football Advisory Board.

During the Metro and Suburban split, McIntyre said it became clear to him in conversations and surveys with coaches in his section that a change could even things out.

“These districts with similar schools to each other have similar capacity, school operation. There is more parity and competitive balance. It’s more apples to apples, oranges to oranges,” he said.

“They feel like I’m fine not winning a state title. It would be a great event if that happened. If this is what the programs base their success on, they will be disappointed most years. [The plan] just gives you a chance to compete against like-minded programs in meaningful soccer matches.

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This proposal was adopted unanimously by two votes of the football committee. It was rejected (8-7) at the first Sporting Directors Advisory Committee, but passed by an 8-7 vote on Wednesday.

Recruitment also remains an important issue for FHSAA, although it is not addressed in this cycle. The suburban/metro divide is about the closest thing to a compromise that could put some of the schools that benefit most from rampant transfers in the same group.

During the football coaches meeting earlier this month, Calvary Christian football coach Kirk Hoza offered removal of FHSAA Rule 37.1.2, which details the recruitment. The association does not have enough power to enforce such a widespread problem.

“Recruitment is out of control in football and basketball in particular. What’s written in the rulebook is just theory for our most egregious offenders. What is happening virtually in Florida is an embarrassment to everyone associated with the governance of our HS sports, whether admitted or not,” he wrote. “Too often, the institutions that participate in the championships and rounds leading up to the final are among the worst offenders. Championships are often determined by institutional ignorance, tolerance or, at worst, mission. Our legislatures fear legal pushbacks and the funding and manpower is not available to enforce the rules.

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