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Q&A: Understanding the FHSAA Bylaws on Cocoa’s appeal regarding their loss at Aquinas

Cocoa High School’s football team plans to protest its 37-36 loss at St. Thomas Aquinas on Friday to the Florida High School Athletic Association.

At the guts of the matter for Cocoa is the officials not starting the clock once they must have in the course of the Tigers’ final drive, which left time on the clock for Aquinas to get the ball back and kick the game-winning field goal with six seconds remaining.

Here’s a fast Q&A in regards to the appeals process.

What do the FHSAA Bylaws say about appealing a game?

In keeping with the FHSAA Bylaws, “The selections of contest officials shall be final and never subject to review. Member schools should file reports with the Executive Director of unsatisfactory performance by contest officials which could also be as a consequence of alleged lack of information of the principles, errors in judgment or improper conduct.” In other areas of the bylaws, it states that game results are final and decisions of the competition officials are final.

The Bylaws also state, “The Sectional Appeals Committee is empowered to contemplate a request from member schools searching for exceptions to Bylaws and regulations, to listen to undue hardship eligibility cases filed by member schools on behalf of student-athletes, and to listen to appeals filed by member schools or other individuals. The choice in each case shall be by majority vote and should be appealed to the Board of Directors.” It’s possible the FHSAA would hear the appeal as an exception to the Bylaws and regulations.

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What specifically is Cocoa appealing?

Cocoa’s basic argument is the procedures of clock operation weren’t followed in the course of the final 1:28 of the fourth quarter. Had they been followed, there isn’t any mathematical way Aquinas would have gotten the ball back, barring a fumbled snap by Cocoa.

Why is Cocoa appealing?

Aside from feeling like a win was taken away due to the officials’ actions, Cocoa is targeted on what the result could mean for this system within the postseason. The FHSAA uses an influence rankings system to find out playoff team and seeding, each within the regional playoffs and state semifinals. A win against Aquinas literally might be the difference between playing at home or on the road within the postseason. Along with wanting home-field advantage for strategic purposes, an additional home game or two means extra funds from the gate in addition to not having the expense of renting charter busses for long road trips.

What are the probabilities the FHSAA overturns the results of Friday’s game?

Realistically, slim to none. Despite the video evidence Cocoa will produce, the FHSAA doesn’t appear to have a mechanism in place to overturn a game result. There’s also the problem of the FHSAA likely not wanting to set precedent for teams wanting to overturn results. The indisputable fact that this was an everyday season game and never a postseason contest where one team was eliminated makes it even less likely. While Cocoa has a robust case to present and the officials clearly didn’t follow procedure, the FHSAA can fall back on contest results are final.

Could the FHSAA have the teams replay the ultimate 1:28?

While this concept has been suggested on social media, there may be nothing within the FHSAA Bylaws that will require or allow teams to replay a portion of a game, even when there is inaccurate procedure by the officials.

The officials got it incorrect. Will anything occur to them?

In keeping with the FHSAA Officials Guidebook, the Executive Director does have the power “to evaluate penalties against local officials’ associations and individual officials who violate FHSAA regulations governing the administration and conduct of the FHSAA official’s program.” Those penalties range from a reprimand to a positive, probation, or suspension. The guidebook also states, “Officials who grossly misapply playing rules will probably be subject to disciplinary motion.” The Broward Football Officials Association Bylaws state that the President “has authority to suspend members temporarily when events warrant such motion pending review and motion by the Executive Board.” It’s not immediately known if the FHSAA or BFOA will review the officials’ actions or if any disciplinary motion will happen.


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