Florida uses the nuclear option
On Monday night, the Florida High School Athletic Association voted 9-6 to chop varsity sports games by 20 percent and JV and freshman games by 40 percent for the 2009-10 and 2010-11 school years. Varsity football, a big moneymaker, is unaffected. Competitive cheerleading is unaffected as well. Wait, is that a big moneymaker, too? New FHSAA executive director Roger Dearing in March put forth this proposal, saying the only other option was eliminating sports.
As you can imagine, this isn’t going over well with athletic directors.
From the Miami Herald, which notes that a lot of high-powered basketball programs who hosted or traveled to tournaments now can’t do so with a 20-game limit:
”I was a student in this county, and now I’ve been coaching in this county for 20-some years,” said Larry Brown, athletic director at Flanagan High School in Pembroke Pines. “I have never seen anything like this, cuts so drastic.”
Added Roger Harriott, AD at Davie’s University School: “It sends the wrong message to the kids, considering they’re the whole reason we have a job.”
In Miami, these games cuts were made five years ago. But the county school district says it still might have to eliminate multiple conference tournaments.
The problem in Florida is this: the state’s property taxes are refigured on an annual basis, and they’re based on the average sale prices for January, the busiest home-selling month in the state. (In my state, Illinois, your property gets reassessed every three years, based on an average price for the previous three years. So my schools are doing OK, because the last assessment caught the last three years of the real estate peak.)
The Florida system was great during the real estate boom times. Now, it’s sending school budgets cratering. Here was my report from January 2009, when I was visiting mortgage-scarred Bradenton.
Individual schools across the country are cutting sports budgets, but I haven’t heard of another state athletic association putting the hammer down on everyone. Will it be the last? I’m going to go out on a limb and say: probably not.
A Florida High School Athletic Association board member at work.
EDIT: Boy, I am behind. New York and Mississippi already have enacted similar cuts statewide, with New York (unlike Mississippi) even cutting football. Oklahoma earlier this decade cut sports schedules to save money, though that was before the current recession. Idaho’s state high school athletic association in April voted down an across-the-board 10 percent event cut, but it might revisit the issue in May, as well as looking at other cost-saving moves.