A Florida coach whose high school football teams have won three straight state championships was suspended pending an investigation into “an unauthorized athletic activity” during the novel coronavirus pandemic.
Max Edwards, the head coach at Miami Northwestern, allegedly held “an unsanctioned event” at a time when schools were closed and athletics across the state were suspended. Daisy Gonzalez-Diego, a Miami-Dade County Public schools spokeswoman, said in a statement provided to the Miami Herald that the school’s investigation had begun “as soon as it learned about this unauthorized athletic activity.”
She added, “Further action may be taken against others who may have been involved in this unsanctioned event. The school is in the process of communicating with parents of students who may have participated.”
Athletic events were suspended by the Greater Miami Athletic Conference on March 13, when schools were closed. All high school athletic events in the state were halted by the Florida High School Athletic Association on March 18, nine days before spring football practices were to begin.
Edwards was named the team’s head coach before the 2015 season and has led the Bulls to a 51-16 record, winning state championships (in Class 6A and 5A) the last three seasons. He was an assistant coach at the school from 1998-2004.
Across all levels of sports, the coronavirus has taken a toll and organizations are feeling pressure. Youth sports is a $19 billion industry in this country, according to some estimates, and the pandemic is wreaking economic damage. The Washington Post’s Rick Maese wrote that challenges mirror some of the issues that have slowed the professional sports leagues’ plans to resume play, but organizers generally lack deep pockets and have no centralized governance. Compounding the issue is a large population of participants eager for an athletic outlet.
A youth baseball tournament in Missouri staged games this month, and many other leagues and teams plan to begin practices in the coming weeks.
“The idea that we’d return to youth sports before we’ve even returned to schools is surprising,” said Lauren Sauer, director of operations with the Johns Hopkins Office of Critical Event Preparedness and Response. “There’s obviously a definite benefit to kids returning to sports and activity - the bonding, the exercise, the impact on mental health. That being said, sports creates, to varying degrees, environments in which you’re more likely to have exposures.”
High school sports face different pressures, but the situation has more clarity. They must comply with conference and state activity association rules. There’s also more at stake, particularly for juniors hoping for a strong senior season that brings attention from college recruiters.