FHSAA Revises Classification Plan

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Copyright 2018 The Florida Times-Union

Florida Times-Union (Jacksonville)


High school sports in the Sunshine State may not be ready to wave goodbye to district tournaments.

But the annual mandatory games against district opponents? In baseball, softball and five other sports, those could be going, going, gone.

The Florida High School Athletic Association is scaling back from the sweeping project that would have overhauled seven sports, retaining both district tournaments and enrollment-based classification in its latest proposal.

However, the FHSAA would no longer require schools to play the other teams in the same district during the regular season.

In general, the new approach seems to be a compromise between the current enrollment-based system, in place since the 1930s, and the more wide-ranging overhaul discussed for most of the past four months.

The latter plan would have installed the power rankings of high school sports information provider MaxPreps as the basis for classification, eliminating both district tournaments and districts themselves.

But coaches expressed concern with the scope of those changes, which would have overturned some eight decades of tradition, during the Sept. 5 meeting of the FHSAA's athletic directors advisory committee.

Instead, the revised plan appears far less radical.

• The biggest adjustment: No more mandatory district games.

In the seven sports affected — boys and girls basketball, boys and girls soccer, baseball, softball and volleyball — all districts would have an equal number of teams. Those teams would no longer have to play each other during the regular season.

Postseason district tournaments would remain, but MaxPreps rankings — not district records — would now determine those seedings.

• Those seven sports would all move to six classifications, in addition to the seventh rural classification. As under the current system, the FHSAA would base classes on student population, not power rankings.

That's welcome news for some coaches, like Christ's Church athletic director Kurt Dugan, who favors using enrollment to determine classes.

"Population, to us, is a big deal ... moving us in with some of these 6A, 7A schools isn't really good for us at all," Dugan said.

Moving to six classes is an expansion for soccer, which now uses five classes, and a reduction for the other five sports, which have nine each.

• District tournament winners qualify automatically for each of the four regions in each class, and MaxPreps rankings would determine the fifth through eighth seeds — in effect, a wild-card system much like the arrangement installed for football in 2017.

In all, 32 teams would qualify for the playoffs in each of Classes 2A through 7A, while the rural division would continue as before.

The new proposal hopes to incorporate the ideas that schools generally liked, notably increased scheduling flexibility, while retaining the end-of-season tradition of district tournaments.

"I do like the idea of keeping district tournaments, because it's something for many teams to shoot for, including the ones that aren't going for state championships," Stanton athletic director Chris Crider said.

The measure still requires the approval of the FHSAA's board of directors, which is next scheduled to meet Oct. 28-29 in Gainesville.

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September 29, 2018


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