Ridaught: Change on the way for high school football

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High school football will look much different in the Sunshine State next season.

Earlier today in Gainesville, the Florida High School Athletic Association’s board of directors voted 9-7 to approve the new Metro/Suburban classification plan.

The proposal will designate the eight largest counties in Florida (Duval, Orange, Seminole, Hillsborough, Pinellas, Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade) as Metro counties. All other counties would compete in Suburban categories.

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Under this plan there would be a total of nine classifications based on student enrollment, but they would be split up. Class 1A would stay rural, giving the Suburban division a total of five classifications, while the metro division would get four classifications.

While the vote has passed, there is still more work to do to put the plan in place for the next school year.

Outgoing Executive Director George Tomyn said he was in favor of a change but felt more time needed to be spent researching, collecting data, and studying the new model.

“We’re setting ourselves up for serious complications,” Tomyn said.

Justin Harrison, Associate Executive Director for the FHSAA, estimated it could take at least a month to get the districts and classifications out.

An amendment to approve the concept and return in six weeks was voted down, 13-2.

But the purpose of the new proposal was to level the playing field on the gridiron.

Schools from the biggest cities continue to win state titles.

St. Thomas Aquinas (Fort Lauderdale) repeated in Class 7A, along with Miami Central (5A), and Cardinal Gibbons (Fort Lauderdale) in Class 4A.

Since 2014, Aquinas has played in every Class 7A state title. Miami Central has won seven state titles since 2012.

Plus, Trinity Christian (Jacksonville) and Champagnat Catholic (Hialeah) have met for the 2A state title four times in the past six years.

During the past decade, aside from the rural areas, schools in Metro counties have won 89 percent of the FHSAA championships.

The new proposal will make it tougher for these top level programs to dominate. It will add “competitive balance.”

Travel would also be different.

As a Metro example, Duval County teams would no longer be grouped in districts against teams from counties like Clay, Nassau and St. Johns. While teams in metro and suburban counties could continue to play each other in non-district games, there could be some long road trips for district games.

Change is never easy.

It remains to be seen how the new plan will affect high school football, but now we know it will definitely look different this fall.

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