New rule could hurt athletes

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Column by Jim Clark

By Jim Clark

The Florida High School Athletic Association on Monday did what a lot of folks figured they would do, cut the number of games that a team may play during a season.

Of course, varsity football was exempted.

The vote was close, 9-6, by the FHSAA board, and the ruling was only for two years. That’s little consolation to this year’s sophomores and juniors who will have to live with this rule for their final two years of high school. They will be gone if the rule is repealed in two years.

There are some sports where the ruling will not be that much of an effect. But in boys basketball, for instance, taking away two or three home games means a loss in revenue, since this is one of the revenue producing sports.

The difference in districts could also have an effect. Williston boys basketball is in a relatively small district, so it will have several schedule slots to fill. But some of the teams the Red Devils would normally play are from larger districts, and they won’t be able to schedule as many independent games. That doesn’t leave a whole lot of possible opponents.

Last year the Williston basketball team built its schedule on some tournaments and one-day events, playing in the Tim Brinkley Memorial at North Marion (three games), the Kingdom of the Sun at Vanguard (four games), the Cape Coral Classic (two games) and the Dante Anderson Memorial Classic at Eastside (one game). Will all these tournaments continue to exist? Who knows?

How about baseball? Williston hosts its spring break Red Devil Challenge, which provides three games in three days for each team. Will this tournament be able to survive? It would be a shame if it didn’t, both from a baseball standpoint and from a revenue standpoint.

In some schools, including Cedar Key in Levy County, there is no football program to bring in revenue, and a sport like boys basketball helps pay the way.

Other sports, such as volleyball and softball, will also be affected.

The Williston softball team recently played three games in the Kissimmee Klassic. What will happen to that event next year?

The feeling here is that the cutting of schedules should be the function of the local School Board, a function which has been usurped by the FHSAA. Not every school district in the state faces the same financial situations. Some school districts have more money than others, and could play more games without hurting anything.

Home rule is the answer, and the FHSAA is getting in the way of letting local school boards run their own programs.

A few years back, the Legislature unwisely gave the FHSAA legal status to run high school athletics in the state of Florida. This would seem to prevent public schools from getting out of the FHSAA and forming their own association. Hillsborough County tried to do that a couple of decades ago, but was persuaded to remain in the FHSAA.

There could be another effect. There would be nothing to stop private schools around the state from bolting from the FHSAA and forming their own association. They could set up as many games as they wanted and, in fact, could make a bad recruiting situation even worse by not being forced to follow the FHSAA eligibility rules.

School boards around the state should be adopting resolutions condemning the FHSAA action, and asserting that they, and only they, should be determining what cuts have to be made in their programs.

That’s what school board members are elected to do. And remember, FHSAA board members are not elected by the public.

Jim Clark is the editor of the Williston Pioneer Sun News. He can be reached at editor@willistonpioneer.com or at 528-3343.