GAINESVILLE, Fla. – The first-ever Florida High School Athletic Association (FHSAA) Flag Football Advisory Committee took place today via Zoom instead of the FHSAA offices in Gainesville as result of the continued social distancing practices as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic going on around the world.
One of the biggest topics to come out of the meeting is the discussion of expanding the state tournament playoff structure which was an action item for the agenda.
The discussion of expanding the state tournament playoff structure for flag football has been one that has been a topic of discussion going back at least a decade for the sport but has not been acted upon as flag football along with other sports like lacrosse, boys volleyball and water polo had been classified as a recognized sport by the FHSAA. During the 2018-2019 school year, that changed when the FHSAA moved all the sports that were recognized to the sanction status.
The proposal by Mandarin Flag Football Head Coach Larry Yudin, who is one of the eight representatives that serve on the committee, said it was time to add the runner-up teams from each district to the playoffs. Other coaches mentioned their support and the support of many others from the regions they represent the need to do this.
Jeremy Hernandez, the Assistant Director of Officials, who is also the Flag Football administrator for the FHSAA, reminded the committee that this process would take two years to go through as it would take two rounds of votes from the Flag Football Advisory Committee and from the Athletic Director Advisory Committee (ADAC) before receiving a final vote from the Board of Directors.
However, while also discussing this option, the option of potentially using an RPI ranking similar to football or using the FHSAA modified MaxPreps formula, which is used by other major team sports including Basketball, Volleyball, Soccer, Baseball, and Softball was discussed as possible options. Either of these options to be used instead of just sending runner-up teams into the playoffs would allow the district tournament to expand from the top four teams used currently to including all teams in a district.
One major sticking point though in using ranking formula is that a lot of the coaches in the committee were against eliminating the required district games as the other major team sports outside of tackle football are doing now, but nothing was decided on this part as the FHSAA is still working out details how it could be potentially implemented in Flag Football and other sports that do not currently use a ranking formula.
The proposal as proposed by Yudin moved forward by a unanimous vote for the time being which will move to the ADAC in the fall, which if they vote on it to pass will return to the Flag Football Advisory Committee in 2021.
The other action item on the table in the meeting including changing some language regarding the jersey belt color and shorts color, which currently states that the jersey color and the belt color cannot match which causes issues if the shorts match the jersey belt color as worn by players. The issue was more to help officials determining what is a legal uniform and what is not legal for a game. They recommended adding wording by phasing out black belts on black shorts and giving a time frame to potentially sunset the black belts on black shorts for the 2021-2022 school year.
The uniform changes also passed by a unanimous vote of the committee.
Other items discussed:
- A discussion included adjusting the time schedules for the State Championship games in the future. This year’s FHSAA Flag Football State Championship game was scheduled to take place at Mandarin High School in Jacksonville on May 8-9. There is a high probability that Mandarin will be able to host the State Championship event in 2021.
- Clock timing was discussed as an issue having the clock stop after all scores when the ball is dead until the other team has possession of the ball. It was discussed as bringing it forth as an action item for the committee to vote on in 2021.
- A proposal by GMAC official Joe Underwood in adjusting the point after attempts on a touchdown was discussed, but the consensus was negative by the committee as they felt adjusting a lot of the major components of the game could have a negative impact with the growth of the sport going on and that Florida being looked at as the role model for the sport. The idea was to change the one-point try to the 3-yard line, two-point try from the 5-yard line and a three-point try from the 10-yard line. Currently the option for a three-point try is from the 20-yard line.
- A Florida-Georgia All-Star game idea was brought into discussion as Georgia, which has recently started to sponsor girls flag football teams, is moving their season into the spring which aligns with Florida. The idea would be to get the 12 best players from Florida vs. the 12 best from Georgia. The idea was recommended to go over to the Florida Athletic Coaches Association for potential sponsorship as they handle all the state all-star games from most sports including Flag Football.
- Discussion about the National Association of Intercollegiate Association (NAIA) sponsoring scholarship girls flag football at various schools around the nation in partnership with the NFL. Several NAIA schools in Florida including Weber International University, St. Thomas University, Florida Memorial University, and Keiser University are among 10 known schools planning to sponsor a team in 2021.
- Jeremey Hernandez brought up that the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) is starting at task force involving Girls Flag Football which could possibly lead to the sport finally getting recognized at the national level by the national association overseeing the states. The NFHS has already reached out to the FHSAA, but there is not many details available yet what the task force will involve.