FHSAA athletic director committee essentially endorses metro/suburban classifications

The Florida High School Athletic Association is on the precipice of a major football classification shakeup.

The FHSAA’s Athletic Director Advisory Committee voted Wednesday afternoon to essentially endorse a proposal to split member schools into four metro and five suburban/rural classifications. Those classifications would continue to be determined by student enrollment.

The actual motion the ADAC was voting on was not to endorse the proposal, a motion that failed by a 7-8 vote. 

The item will go before the FHSAA’s Board of Directors during their meeting on Feb. 27-28 and could be implemented as soon as the 2022 season.

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"There's no system that everyone is going to be happy with, and that's not beyond us," said Creekside football coach Sean McIntyre, a member of FHSAA's Football Advisory Committee. "I don't want to misrepresent anyone or not do my job as someone elected by the coaches. The vast majority of the Section 1 coaches were in favor of this. 

"We're trying to level the playing field, create competitive balance and put schools together who are similar in every capacity into meaningful district and playoff games."

One possibility:See what FHSAA metro and suburban football classifications could look like in 2022

Venice celebrates winning the Class 8A football state championship over Apopka in December, a rare FHSAA title for a school outside one of eight metro counties.

Metro class would include Jacksonville, Miami, Orlando, Tampa

The four metro classifications would include schools from the eight most densely populated counties in the state: Duval, Seminole, Orange, Hillsborough, Pinellas, Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade.

The FHSAA’s football advisory committee has unanimously approved the proposal each of the past two years and sent it to the athletic directors for their consideration.

The ADAC voted 8-7 against endorsing the proposal a year ago, but the push for a metro/suburban split has been building to create more competitive balance in state championships.

In the past 10 years, metro-area schools have won 89% of the state football championships outside the 1A rural class.

Six of this year’s state champions – Jacksonville-Trinity Christian (Class 2A), Chaminade-Madonna (3A), Cardinal Gibbons (4A), Miami Central (5A), Jesuit (6A) and St. Thomas Aquinas (7A) – came from metro areas. The lone state champions from suburban areas were Madison County (1A) and Venice (Class 8A).

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Metro powers have dominated Florida football

It’s a continuing trend of championship trophies going to metro areas in mostly lopsided championship games.

Since 2011, 32 state title games have featured metro vs. suburban teams. Metro teams are 26-6 (.812 winning percentage) with an average margin of victory of 12.68 points per game. The margin of victory would be considerably larger if it hadn’t been for a pair of rare suburban blowouts — Manatee beating Jacksonville-First Coast 40-0 and Tallahassee-North Florida Christian beating St. Petersburg-Admiral Farragut 69-0 — in 2011.

Of the 70 state championship games in Classes 8A-2A in the past decade from 2011 to 2020, only two have featured a pair of suburban teams: Godby against Immokalee (Class 5A) in 2012 and Venice against Bartram Trail (Class 7A) in 2017. By comparison, two metro teams have played for a state title 36 times in the same time period.

The trend toward urban dominance has accelerated during the past decade. During the 10-year period from 2001 to 2010, 28 of 74 FHSAA football titles (37.8 percent) went to teams from non-metro counties, even though the FHSAA did not expand to eight classes until 2005 and did not add the rural 1A designation until 2011. Between 1991 and 2000, 31 of the available 52 state titles (59.6 percent) went to non-metro schools. 

The shift in the balance of power has been stark. Between 1976 and 1985, non-Metro schools accounted for 39 of the 42 state champions (Clewiston and Jefferson County shared the Class 2A title in 1982, before the FHSAA instituted overtime in finals). The only metro breakthroughs in those years were Miami Carol City (1977) and Glades Day (1980 and 1982), while the Panhandle reigned supreme, sweeping the titles in 1976 and 1984.

"It’s not going to be easy to win a state championship," said Price Harris, Dunnellon's football coach and a member of the football advisory committee. "I don't care what you do, it's going to be hard. But you have an opportunity too, and you have a shot. That makes a difference. For those schools in the middle of the road like 3A, 4A and 5A, when you have to play a Bolles or Trinity Catholic or Trinity Christian or (Miami) Central, that makes things very different.

"There's going to be opposition and I get it. Change is hard. It’s hard for everybody."

Trinity Christian's Treyaun Webb (3) dodges a tackle from Champagnat's Donavan Philord in December's Class 2A final. Trinity's victory was among three finals in 2021 and 18 over the last five years to match two teams from metro areas.

NON-METRO FLORIDA FOOTBALL CHAMPIONS

1991-2000 (59.6 percent)

1991: Alachua Santa Fe, Fort Walton Beach, Jefferson County

1992: Frostproof, Manatee, Pasco

1993: Baker, Graceville, Bradenton Southeast

1994: Alachua Santa Fe, Bradenton Southeast, Union County, Pensacola Washington

1995: Fort Walton Beach, Union County

1996: Bartow, Lakeland, Tallahassee North Florida Christian, Union County

1997: Chiefland, Taylor County

1998: Kissimmee Osceola, Tallahassee North Florida Christian

1999: Frostproof, Lakeland, Tallahassee Lincoln, Tallahassee North Florida Christian

2000: North Florida Christian, Palm Bay, Pine Forest, Venice

2001-2010 (37.8 percent)

2001: Tallahassee Lincoln, Madison County, Naples, Tallahassee North Florida Christian, Rockledge

2002: Palm Bay, Rockledge

2003: Mainland

2004: Fort Meade, Immokalee, Lakeland

2005: Evangel Christian, Lakeland, Nease, Port St. Joe, St. Augustine, Ocala Trinity Catholic

2006: FAMU, Lakeland

2007: Madison County, Naples

2008: Cocoa, Tallahassee North Florida Christian

2009: Cocoa, Pensacola

2010: Cocoa, Tallahassee Lincoln, Ocala Trinity Catholic

2011-2020 (11.4 percent outside 1A, 21.2 percent overall)

2011: Jefferson County*, Manatee, Tallahassee North Florida Christian

2012: Tallahassee Godby, Northview*

2013: Trenton*

2014: Port St. Joe*, Lakeland Victory Christian

2015: Trenton*

2016: Cocoa

2017: Madison County*, Venice

2018: Lakeland, Madison County*, Tallahassee North Florida Christian

2019: Madison County*

2020: Baker*

* - Denotes rural 1A champion (introduced in 2011)