Subtropicspanl Storm Nicole could have a big impact on the Florida High School Athletic Association’s football playoffs.
The National Hurricane Center issued a hurricane and storm surge watches for most of Florida’s East Coast on Monday morning. Currently, almost all of Florida is in the cone uncertainty.
That presents several very real problems, but it also could throw the regional quarterfinals, which are scheduled to start Thursday, into disarray.
The FHSAA, which had a board meeting on Monday, did not immediately respond to questions emailed early Monday morning and it’s not immediately clear what the state would do if the storm forces several school districts to close schools this week.
As for the football ramifications — which certainly are down on the list to priorities during a storm — the FHSAA could be looking at several issues.
The primary one is when to play games.
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Before we go any further, no one can possibly blame this situation on the FHSAA. A named storm hasn’t hit Florida in November since Tropical Storm Mitch in 1998, so this probably wasn’t high on the FHSAA’s contingency plans.
But now it must be.
Nicole’s impact timeline
Hurricane conditions are possible within the watch area in Florida by Wednesday night with tropical storm conditions possible by Tuesday night.
Should the storm continue of its current path, it’s likely schools will at the very least be closed for one or two days during the middle of the week. There’s also the possibility that some school districts will cancel extracurricular activities this starting Tuesday.
So, in preparation for a playoff game, some teams could be looking at one day of practice before Thursday or Friday. And playing Thursday isn’t looking like a real option right now.
There’s also the competitive balance issue in a game like Creekside at Navarre in Region 1-4S. Creekside is on the East Coast; Navarre is in the Panhandle. Those schools are looking at very different timelines for school closures, which means one school could get more practice time than the other. Ask any coach if that will make a difference.
Playing Friday might be viable in some areas, but that’s only if there’s not major damage from the storm and that fields are immediately playable even with an expected two to six inches of rain. Of course, does the FHSAA really want teams playing without practicing for several days?
Is there a good alternative?
So, what are the not so good alternatives?
Allow teams to practice Sunday and push the playoffs back, state-wide, to Monday.
Why do it state-wide instead of a case-by-case basis? Because in the playoffs you want (if possible) to create a level playing field and one school playing Saturday and getting two extra days of rest is problematic when their second-round opponent plays Monday and then has to turn around and play Friday.
It’s not an elegant solution because it creates an immediate problem for schools that share a stadium.
Here’s an option that’s a little more “creative.”
Postpone the regional quarterfinals for everyone expect for the schools in Class 2S and 1R.
First, Classes 1M and 1S already do not play this week because they only have four teams in their regional brackets instead of eight in the larger classes.
Classes 2M-4M and 3S-4S are scheduled to play their state championship games in Fort Lauderdale on Dec. 15-17. The teams that advance to the state championship game have a week off after the state semifinals on Dec. 2.
The FHSAA could eliminate that bye, take it now and start the playoffs in these classes next week.
That leaves Classes 2S and 1R. Those state championships are scheduled for Dec. 8-10 in Tallahassee.
Theoretically, those regional quarterfinal games could be played Monday with the regional semifinals resuming as scheduled. It would at least put teams on a somewhat level playing field while eliminating the issue of teams sharing fields.
It’s definitely not perfect, especially since It gives the 1R teams that win a short turnaround before playing a game on Friday against a team that had a bye in the quarterfinals.
Obviously, the storm could shift path which would, thankfully, make this a non-issue.
But right now, with almost all of the state in the cone of uncertainty, the FHSAA needs to be ready to make some big decisions.