FHSAA’s future at stake in Legislature

Logo courtesy: FHSAA

Robert Snyder, a high school athletic director at a Christian academy in Florida, says his school was not able to compete with other members of the Florida High School Athletic Association in 2017.

He oversees athletics at a small private school and doesn’t have enough players to be able to play against high schools that have thousands of students. He began to see improvement when his school joined the Sunshine State Athletic Conference.

“As AD I was looking for an association that we could join to compete with our talent level at the time. SSAC fits that due to the fact it was a number of private schools we could play against,” Snyder said.

He says SSAC’s playoff structure for schools his size is far more evenly matched.

Senate Bill 308, known as “Interscholastic Activities,” would allow the approved athletic association that joins the association to receive the benefits of the full members. The measure would shrink the FHSAA board from 16 to nine members, and Governor Ron DeSantis would have the authority to appoint eight of the nine members of the FHSAA board.

The bill’s sponsor, Jay Collins, R-Tampa, said the bill would ultimately provide “oversight” of the athletics board.

“As we seek to bring choice just as we allow choice in all other aspects of education. I fundamentally believe in the power of athletics to help only craft children into successful members of our community,” Collins said.

Mark Marsala is the director of athletic operations for the Sunshine State Athletic Conference. He says he is in support of this bill.

“It is time for schools to have athletic choice. We allow school choice, academic choice, and the choice to home school. Why not athletic choice?” Marsala said.

Private schools and charter schools need to make the best decisions for their schools to achieve competitive balance.

“Our state is growing at an all-time rate. High school athletics in our state is growing as we move into the future,” Marsala said.

Richard Finlayson is the head of school at Aucilla Christian Academy in neighboring Jefferson County. He says he has been involved in the FHSAA for a long time. He said he believes the Legislature wants what’s best for all of the athletic associations.

“We can welcome other associations to better meet the needs of our student athletes. The biggest thing I believe that is my concern in this bill is that sometimes unintended consequences come through with well intended approaches,” Finlayson said.

Finlayson wants to keep the system of the FSHAA the same with no changes.

“Losing that representative form of government that the FHSAA serves the state of Florida so well and athletics so well is concerning,” Finlayson said.

The Senate Education PreK-12 Committee voted 9-3 along party lines to approve SB 308.