Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Florida's rural high schools get an athletic division

Citing unequal competition between urban and small rural schools, the Florida High School Athletic Association has created a new division in eight sports for rural schools with fewer than 500 students. Invitations to join "Rural Division II" will be sent to the 32 rural schools with the smallest enrollment, reports. If any of those schools decline their invitations, invitations will be sent to the next smallest rural school until 32 teams accept. Rural Division II schools will compete in their own playoffs in boys' and girls' basketball, baseball, football, softball and girls' volleyball, and boys' and girls' soccer. (Read more)

The call for the rural division arose after years of rural schools facing urban ones with similar enrollment but vastly different talent levels. Most of the small urban schools are private and attract student-athletes from populations of 250,000 or more, Pat McCann of the The News Herald of Panama City reports. "We’re excited about it, we just think it would help keep it on a competitive playing field," Ponce de Leon High School girls basketball coach Tim Alford told McCann. "Our last trip to the Final Four we played a team that had six Division I signees on one high school team. They had beaten the Class 6A team that won the state championship 51-21."

In addition to having a qualifying enrollment, schools must also be in a rural area as designated by the Florida Office of Tourism, Trade and Economic Development. Some schools are expected to decline invitations due to long travel distances to play other teams in the division. "Seriously, it’s like an AAU tournament when you go down there [to play urban schools]. Those teams have (signees) from Louisville and Kentucky," Port St. Joe High School boys basketball coach Derek Kurnitsky told McCann. "We just coach the kids in the neighborhood. I commend the FHSAA and what they’re doing to try and make it at least fair." (Read more)

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