Varsity Preps

Kosnitzky’s Korner: Florida High School State Finals; An Issue With Attendance

(Scene from Allen – Pearland State Title Game; Photo Source: Dallas Morning News)

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Every year, Florida hosts their high school football state finals which are designed to match up the top teams in each classification. This event, which is operated by the Florida High School Athletic Association (FHSAA) signifies the culmination of another exciting season.  Over the  past few seasons and including this year, the games took place over two weekends at the Florida Citrus Bowl in Orlando, Florida. The first weekend involved the teams from the smaller classification schools (1A-4A), while the second weekend involved schools from the larger classification schools (5A-8A).


Without question, FHSAA does an excellent job running this event that encompasses eight football games. Unfortunately, an area of contention is the poor attendance. This issue becomes more polarized when many view the attendance figures at the Texas High School Football Championships this past weekend at Cowboys Stadium in Dallas, Texas. In particular, the Allen – Pearland game drew 54,347 on Saturday night and the three days of football games at the stadium were attended by over 220,000.
On the other hand, in Florida the attendance at games ranged from under 2,000 in one game to 9,979 at the 8A Title game between Apopka and South Dade.  It should also be noted that most fans from Apopka traveled less than 20 miles to reach the stadium.

8,500 Apopka, FL fans cheer for the team in white in their state title game

8,500 Apopka, FL fans cheer for the team in white in their state title game

There are probably several factors that dictate the poor attendance.  While Orlando is a beautiful location and the stadium a suitable facility, only 1 of the 16 participants was from the residing area. In contrast, schools from South Florida had 6 of the 16 participants and make up an area of nearly 7 million people and the larger populated schools we saw in the finals. In addition, if you simply compiled the counties in question which are Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach, they would represent the largest school district in the entire country behind New York.

 

There may be other factors to consider which may go beyond the few hours travel that many fans undertook this year.  These may include marketing or culture.  The idea of “Friday Night Lights” may be something unique to Texas and their people which cannot be replicated anywhere else.

 

Nonetheless, FHSAA and the Citrus Bowl provided a quality experience for all who attended. We must congratulate the people of Texas for their support.  In Florida, there are no easy answers and by no means does this author suggest that a change in venue will provide an immediate solution. However, the hope is all options are considered and all resources are utilized to boost attendance when we enter a new contract period.

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