Copyright 2018 The Florida Times-Union
Florida Times-Union (Jacksonville)
The Florida High School Athletic Association moved one step closer to approving a reclassification plan for seven sports, which would end mandatory district games and introduce ranking-based at-large berths for postseason.
The FHSAA's athletic directors advisory committee voted Wednesday to endorse the modified plan, a decision that sets the stage for a final decision on the proposal in less than two weeks.
The reclassification, which would apply to boys and girls basketball, boys and girls soccer, baseball, softball and volleyball, would take effect for the 2019-20 school year.
Under the plan, those six sports would move to six classes, in addition to the unaffected rural class, beginning next fall. Soccer currently uses five classes, while the others now have nine. Those classes would be determined based on student enrollment, as in the current system.
The FHSAA would no longer require teams in those sports to schedule all of their district opponents during the regular season, a change intended to give schools greater flexibility in drawing up their annual slate of games.
In addition, the plan would use the rankings of California-based high school sports website MaxPreps to determine at-large qualifiers for the playoffs, four for each region in each classification, who would advance along with district tournament champions.
By contrast, in the current system, both district champions and runners-up automatically qualify for the postseason.
The vote passed 9-1, with Hialeah American athletic director Marcus Gabriel casting the lone dissenting vote. While the committee does not have power to implement policy directly, its approval normally carries significant weight with the FHSAA board of directors when evaluating major decisions.
That's a hurdle that an earlier, more radical plan failed to surmount. That proposal, developed over the summer, would have eliminated districts, district tournaments and enrollment-based classification entirely, replacing them with a divisional system based on the MaxPreps rankings.
However, at a Sept. 5 meeting of the committee, multiple athletic directors and coaches balked at elements of that plan, defending the value of district tournaments and expressing concerns about the accuracy and transparency of the MaxPreps rankings.
Those rankings remain a significant factor under the modified system, but by themselves, they won't determine a team's playoff destiny.
From this point, the next steps will unfold quickly.
A final vote is expected Oct. 29, when the FHSAA board of directors meets in Gainesville.
Should the proposal pass, the FHSAA would then face the task of drawing up the dividing lines of enrollment and squeezing the present eight non-rural classifications into six. The association has never before reduced the number of classes in any major team sport.
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