Mike Ridaught is the editor and publisher of ThePrepZone.com, the foremost website for high school sports in northeast Florida.
On Saturday, Florida governor Ron DeSantis announced that all schools in Florida would remain in distance learning through the remainder of the academic year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and ending the hope that the spring sports seasons would continue.
While it remained a long shot to open schools and return to sports, area coaches and players still had some hope that an abbreviated season in the spring could be completed. The Florida High School Athletic Association said in a news release on March 31st that a spring sports season as late as June 30th was a possibility.
But Saturday’s announcement takes that out of the FHSAA’s hands now. Should the pandemic run its course and the state feel that it’s safe, schools will reopen in August and sports resume this fall.
The Florida Department of Health recommended on March 30th that schools remain closed through May 1st, with a best-case scenario of a May 4th return. The FHSAA had followed the state’s lead, delaying any announcement of canceling spring sports.
However, Saturday’s announcement by the governor takes that out of the FHSAA’s hands. An official announcement by the FHSAA was released yesterday:
"Following Governor Ron DeSantis’ announcement mandating schools continue distance learning for the remainder of the 2019-20 school year, it is with heavy hearts that the FHSAA has decided to cancel all FHSAA affiliated events, inclusive of the state series and all championship events, for spring sports. The safety of our student-athletes, coaches, officials, and fans is our top priority. With the evolving threat of the CORONAVIRUS (COVID-19), we must ensure that we do not contribute to the spread of this illness. We are deeply saddened for our student-athletes who have seen their seasons and/or high school careers end so abruptly. Our Association knows the impact and role high school athletics play in the lives of so many and will continue to work towards the betterment of high school sports. We know this is a trying time, but the health and safety of all is of utmost importance to this Association.
Under the guidance of the Florida Department of Education regarding grade level retention, and upon review of the Florida Statutes and FHSAA Bylaws, no additional eligibility will be granted for spring sport athletes. For clarification regarding student-athlete eligibility, click here.
To all our senior student-athletes, we thank you for dedicating your time and efforts to your school, your coaches, and your teammates. Cherish the memories you have made and embrace all that the future holds for you. While we are saddened that you are unable to compete this season, we could not be prouder to have been represented by such hard-working individuals.
Our Association is eager to reconvene all sports in the 2020-21 school year. In the meantime, we strongly encourage everyone to continue adhering to the recommendations of the CDC and your local health departments during this hiatus. Please remember to practice social distancing, frequently wash your hands and avoid touching your face."