Florida takes cost-cutting measures with high school sports

GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) — High school athletes in Florida will play fewer games for the next two years under a new rule approved by the Florida High School Athletic Association that is designed to save money during tough economic times.

The group’s board of directors voted 9-6 Monday to cut the number of varsity games by 20 percent and all other play by 40 percent through the 2010-11 school year. The policy applies to all sports except for football.

“It’s written in the proposal to have a sunset after two years. That’s it. We really mean two years,” board president Greg Zornes said in a statement. “We fully intend to restore what we had until today at the end of the two-year period.”

The rule change was designed to cut costs for Florida high school athletic departments, which are facing tough budget constraints.

“These are unprecedented times,” Zornes said. “People are losing their jobs as schools are cutting millions and millions of dollars from their budgets. Our job is to look out for all the schools.”

Critics say the rules change will reduce opportunities for students and cost some schools money they gain by hosting games.

The board on Monday denied three amendments to the proposal, and in June will consider a recommendation regarding schools without football.

“We tried to bring in a uniform and systematic approach to a problem,” executive director Dr. Roger Dearing said in a statement. “We are hopeful this will ensure the future of all sports at all levels of competition. It will not affect all schools in all ways, but it will help a vast majority of those schools facing the elimination of certain sports.”

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