South Dade's football team following practice last year.

South Dade's football team following practice last year.

The FHSAA Board of Directors reversed its initial decision and fall sports has now been pushed back to start on Aug. 24 at the earliest.

The board held an emergency meeting Thursday night after receiving heavy criticism following Monday’s decision to continue as planned with fall sports beginning on July 27.

The initial 11-5 vote on Monday was reversed to 11-4.

And while the decision was reversed, many schools had already made decisions on their own as Board of Directors president Lauren Otero revealed that 359 of the 396 schools who responded, stated they would not be starting on the 27th following the board’s initial decision.

Lee County School Board member Chris Patricca, who was initially on the prevailing side, brought up the motion to reconsider and recommended to follow the recommendations laid out by the SMAC, which includes having a downward trajectory in coronavirus cases, a positive testing percentage to be less than five percent for at least 28 days with a seven-day rolling average, and at least two weeks of practices before beginning the season.

“I spent a lot of time talking to doctors and nurses, I spent a lot of time talking to Dr. (Jennifer) Maynard as well to understand this, and I’m grateful the board gave us time to digest this and figure it out,” Patricca said. “I’ve looked at the requirements laid out by the SMAC report and I am loathed to ignore those. I think it would be irresponsible for me to not take those recommendations to heart and make them expectations for our counties to follow.”

FHSAA’s Sports Medicine Advisory Committee chair Dr. Jennifer Maynard of the Mayo Clinic recommended a delay of the start of football and girls volleyball.

“The concern and the data would predict that there is a possibility than the numbers will increase as the schools open,” Maynard said. “We are hoping that is not the case and if we can see a nice drop off and the positive rate percentage drops to five percent or lower, then that is a safer time to begin these contact and collision sports.”

Currently Florida’s positivity rate is 18.9 percent according to date from The COVID Tracking Project. The SMAC’s recommendation of less than five percent is consistent with the World Health Organization’s five percent of a 14-day span advisory to governments before reopening.

Douglas Dodd, Jacob Oliva, Susan Tortora, Charlie Ward, Chalmus Thomas, and Patricca reversed their decisions, joining John Gerdes, Jeff McLean, Carlos Ochoa, Mark Schusterman, and Otero to delay the start.

“We have one county in the state of Florida that is below five percent,” Patricca said. “We have 27 counties that are between 5-9.9 percent, and 38 counties that are above 10 percent, and we have only one mega-district that is in the 5-9-9 percent range. I don’t see a way forward for these two sports in the fall.”

Richard Finlayson, Bobby Johns, Dr. Randy McDaniel, and H. Larry Moore remained in favor of starting as planned while Dr. Brenda Longshore did not vote on Thursday, but was in favor on Monday.

Schusterman, a co-athletic director at Riviera Prep in Miami, pleaded with board members for a delay during Monday’s meeting.

“We right now, whether you want to realize it or not, are the epicenter of this whole thing in the world,” Schusterman said. “We are New York in April and if we don’t take ahold of this and we let these kids go out there and go into school and spread it into families, we will be the people responsible for that.”


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