An expanded playoff format and other changes are likely headed to Florida high school football next season.
During the Florida High School Athletic Association’s Athletic Director Advisory Committee (ADAC) meeting earlier this month, the group endorsed a handful of proposals that would affect the sport beginning this fall.
The first would be to add two more teams from each region to the state playoffs for Classes 1A-4A.
Under the FHSAA’s revamped playoff system implemented for the first time last season, four teams in each of the four regions qualified for the postseason based on points.
This year, six teams would qualify, with the top two seeds earning byes into the second round — thus increasing the playoffs from 16 to 24 teams.
The proposed changes are an effort to allow more teams to qualify for the playoffs, and also give the No. 3 and No. 4 seeds the opportunity to play a home game, thereby increasing revenue for their schools.
The FHSAA’s Board of Directors will vote to implement the change at its Jan. 29 meeting. If approved, the rule takes effect this fall.
The FHSAA’s Football Coaches Advisory Committee previously voted unanimously to recommend the increase in the number of Classes 1A-4A teams advancing to the postseason from each region.
The FHSAA passed the original playoff system in September 2016, as a measure to base football postseason berths on a points system in Classes 1A-4A, rewarding teams for winning records and strength of schedule; Classes 5A-8A are still in districts and eight teams in four regions get into the playoffs.
Zephyrhills Christian Academy (Class 2A) was the only small school from The Laker/Lutz News coverage area to make the playoffs last season. The team, which was a No. 4 seed, lost in the first round.
Other small schools in The Laker/Lutz News coverage area that could be affected by the playoff expansion format are Carrollwood Day School (Class 2A) and Cypress Creek Middle High School (Class 4A).
The ADAC also endorsed several other football-related changes:
- To clearly define the FHSAA’s procedures for postponed and interrupted games. For example, if a game is interrupted due to weather, teams will effectively be required to finish the following day or set up a mutually agreed-upon date by 9 a.m. the next day. The final procedures are expected to be modified before August, in order to be enforced for the 2018 season.
- To increase points for a “high-quality” loss. Starting this fall, 35 points will be awarded for losing to a Category 1 team (previously 30). The five-point increase also applies for losses to Category 2 (30), 3 (25) and 4 (20) teams.
The measure ensures a loss to a Category 1 team (8-2 record or better) is the same as beating a Category 4 team (0-10 to 3-7 record). There was a five-point discrepancy before, allowing teams to play lesser teams and be rewarded more than playing and losing to a top team. Category 1 teams are those that won 80 percent or more of their games; Category 2 teams won at least 60 percent of their games, but no more than 79 percent; Category 3 teams won at least 40 percent of their games, but no more than 59 percent; and Category 4 teams won less than 39 percent of their games.
- To approve a 40-second play clockpending approval by the National Federation of State High School Associations. The rationale is to make every game more uniform in that each referee has the ability to speed up or slow down a game. There would be parameters to move to a 25-second play clock following penalties, on kickoffs and so on.
FHSAA rules changes are imminent in several other sports, too.
- Swimming & Diving: The committee agreed to allow the FHSAA to create guidelines regarding pay structure for schools to follow. Lastly, the ADAC voted to have a minimum of four officials at the state swimming & diving meet.
- Cross Country: The ADAC approved two action items that will next go before the Cross Country Advisory Committee this December. The first approval was to allow the use of watches with GPS capabilities during all cross-country meets. The final item supported was awarding the top-15 placing runners at the state meet.
- Track & Field: The ADAC accepted the Track & Field Advisory Committee’s recommendation to add javelin to the state series in 2020. The rule change will reappear in front of the Track & Field Advisory Committee this May.
- Golf: The ADAC voted to extend golf’s regular season from 14 contests to 16 contests. The FHSAA Board of Directors will vote on this as an action item in the near future.
Published January 24, 2018