FHSAA executive director won't endorse metro-suburban split for high school football
A proposal to divide Florida high school football into metro and suburban classes met a setback Friday, when Florida High School Athletic Association executive director George Tomyn declined to back the measure.
The FHSAA's agenda, released Friday, said that "the Executive Director does not endorse the proposal as written and does endorse the continued work of the Athletic Directors Advisory Committee to review classification."
The association did not provide further details for Tomyn's rationale.
Tomyn's opposition does not derail the measure, which is still scheduled to go before the 16-member board of directors on Feb. 27-28 at the scheduled meeting at the Robert W. Hughes Building in Gainesville. If the board approves the plan, it would take effect for the 2022 season.
The metro-suburban proposal, which narrowly won the support of the athletic directors advisory committee in January, would split Florida football based on their counties. Schools in the eight most populated counties (Duval, Orange, Seminole, Hillsborough, Pinellas, Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade) would compete in one of four metro classes, while the remaining schools would be split into five suburban classes.
All metro and suburban classes would have both regions and districts under the plan.
See the FHSAA's plan:Full text of the metro-suburban proposal for high school football
In a tightly-contested 8-7 vote, the athletic directors advisory committee last month voted down a motion that would withhold endorsement for the plan. By voting not to reject it, the committee in effect backed the proposal.
The athletic directors' committee normally carries heavy influence in shaping FHSAA policy, although it does not have power to formally install or deny proposed actions.
Competitive balance concerns have spurred the FHSAA to consider the change, which would constitute one of the most significant shakeups to Florida high school sports for decades.
Most high school titles came from Florida's 8 biggest counties
During the 10-year period from 2011 to 2020, apart from the 1A rural class, schools from Florida's eight largest counties accounted for 89 percent of the state's high school football champions. By contrast, those counties won only 62.2 percent of state titles from 2001 to 2010, and 40.4 percent from 1991 to 2000.
The FHSAA's 19-page document on the plan also points to Florida's open enrollment policies in education for accelerating the trend toward large-county dominance.
"With the addition of the Open Enrollment Act, it has become increasingly easier for players to transfer. In a metro area, with a denser population it is easier for players to provide transportation to another school," the report said.
Citing a survey of Region 2, which includes much of Central Florida, the FHSAA said that 71 percent of coaches polled backed the metro-suburban split.
Whether the FHSAA endorses the metro-suburban split or not, the association must still determine its plans for classification for the 2022-23 school year. Because of the coronavirus pandemic, the FHSAA voted last year to reclassify for one season only, and the 2021-22 classifications will expire at the end of the spring. Without a classification plan in place, schools face considerable uncertainty in assembling their schedules for the coming year.
However, Tomyn did recommend a separate proposal that would eliminate the RPI system, currently used to allocate at-large playoff berths for Class 5A-8A football and all playoff berths in Class 1A-4A football.
In its place, the FHSAA would use its modified version of the MaxPreps rankings, which the association already uses to select at-large teams for sports including baseball, basketball, soccer, softball and volleyball. The athletic directors advisory committee backed using those rankings in place of the RPI last month by a 15-0 vote.
The association initially installed the RPI — a mathematical formula that weighs the record of each team, its opponents and its opponents' opponents — in January 2019, supporting the measure in an 11-3 vote. The RPI replaced the FHSAA season point system that was in place for 2017 and 2018, a format that drew statewide criticism after allowing a winless Gadsden County team into the 2018 football postseason.
The FHSAA is also scheduled to hold a special meeting at 1 p.m. Feb. 26 of its six-member executive director search committee, which is scheduled to discuss the procedures for hiring a replacement for Tomyn. The current executive director, who has served since 2017, notified administrators in September of his plans to step down at the conclusion of the 2021-22 academic year.
Clayton Freeman covers high school sports and more for the Florida Times-Union. Follow him on Twitter at @CFreemanJAX.