New divisions mean big changes to high school football in Florida. Here’s who it will affect

Orange, Seminole counties to be part of Metro Division

On Thursday night, high school football kicked on in Central Florida, including schools in Orlando. (WKMG)

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Big change is on the way this year for high school football in Florida, News 6 partner WJXT-TV in Jacksonville reported.

The Florida High School Athletic Association’s board of directors voted to go ahead with the biggest changes to the sport — perhaps ever — approving a concept that will split the state into two divisions, Metro and Suburban. The board voted Monday to approve the measure 9-7, a seismic shift that will go into effect beginning this year.

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It’s a radical change that will take the state’s largest eight counties — Broward, Duval, Hillsborough, Miami-Dade, Orange, Palm Beach, Pinellas and Seminole — and put them in a newly created Metro division. Schools in those districts have cleaned up in state championships and both coaches and athletic director committees in the state wanted to level the playing field.

The state’s remaining 59 counties will be split in the Suburban category. Both Metro and Suburban will have four classifications in each. Class 1A would remain rural, giving the state nine state champions now.

The board was situated on two fault lines, which much of the debate centered around.

Backers of the proposal largely felt that the time to make a change was now, even with so many details of the plan still unknown.

The FHSAA said that it could have a new policy drawn up to accompany the Metro/Suburban concept within a couple weeks. That would allow schools to begin scheduling.

Executive director George Tomyn wasn’t in favor of the plan from the outset and voiced his concerns with the timeline of such a radical change. Tomyn suggested a year of more detailed study on such a change, including the hire of an outside firm to look at the finer details. His preference was starting any change in 2024.

St. Johns County superintendent Tim Forson, who voted in favor of the change, said he spoke to the coaches in his area and came away moved by the need for change.

“Let’s be bold and move forward,” Forson said.

The FHSAA board was skeptical about calling the Metro/Suburban a policy because of the outstanding questions around it.

Discussion on the change began more than a year ago within the football coaches advisory committee unanimously approving it in both 2021 and this year. The athletic directors advisory committee voted against it 8-7 last year and voted for it by the same margin this year. The operations committee voted in favor of the plan, 3-2, on Sunday night.

Also on Monday, the FHSAA said it wanted to get in front of the discussion on the name, image and likeness issue. That bill became law last July, allowing college athletes to profit from their name, image and likeness. That issue has already made its way down to the high school level in some states. The FHSAA said it is soliciting input on the topic and would report its findings at the next meeting in April.

Florida is one of 24 states that currently prohibits NIL in high school, joining Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas, Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming.

Suburban division

How the new classification structure in high school football will look. Classes are shown with enrollment numbers. Schools from 59 counties make up this division.

4A: 68 schools (1,893 enrollment)

3A: 68 schools (1,443-1,892)

2A: 68 schools (601-1,442)

1A: 30 schools (below 600)

Metro division

High schools in Broward, Duval, Hillsborough, Miami-Dade, Orange, Palm Beach, Pinellas and Seminole will make up the new Metro division. A look at how many schools will make up each classification, with enrollment for those schools listed.

4A: 64 schools (2,356 enrollment)

3A: 64 schools (1,675-2,355)

2A: 64 schools (601-1,674)

1A: 36 schools (below 600)

Rural

The rural division has existed as Class 1A for years. It will continue and have these numbers of schools and enrollment numbers.

1A: 33 schools (below 600)


About the Author:

Justin Barney joined News4Jax in February 2019, but he’s been covering sports on the First Coast for more than 20 years.