Brandon vs. Oviedo a no-go

The state powerhouses cannot come to terms on a duals tournament hosted by the Eagles.

Published January 17, 2007

BRANDON - What shaped up as one of the most anticipated dual matches in state prep history apparently isn't going to happen.

After nearly two weeks of adjusting to the changing demands of Oviedo coaches, Brandon officials confirmed the match was called off when the Lions failed to meet a 3 p.m. deadline Tuesday to accept the challenge to compete in a four-team dual-match tournament set for Jan. 24 at Brandon.

"(Oviedo coach J.D. Robbins) told me there was no referee in Florida able to referee a Brandon vs. Oviedo dual and their final demand was a match officiated by a Division I college referee," Eagles coach Russ Cozart said.

Cozart rejected that demand and told Robbins "there are plenty of qualified referees in Hillsborough and other counties."

According to Cozart, Robbins said Friday he would consider the state referee offer and get back to him. When there was no response Monday, Cozart passed the information to Brandon athletic director Johnny Bush, who called Oviedo counterpart Greg Register with Tuesday's deadline.

That would have afforded the Florida High School Athletic Association seven days to receive the application, with late fees, and approve or reject a four-team dual tournament.

With Brandon and Oviedo ranked No. 1 and 2, respectively, by FloridaKids.us, the match would have been a challenge to the Eagles' 32-year national consecutive dual-match win streak of 439.

""I still had an opening for (Oviedo) the Thursday (Jan.4) before the Graves tournament started. One of their coaches called that afternoon and asked for a special match on Jan. 24," Cozart said.

Cozart accepted the challenge, but had to put together a quick four-team dual tournament because officials of the Hillsborough County School District would not allow out-of-county duals except in a tournament.

Bloomingdale coach Donnie Peek and Wharton coach David Mitchell quickly accepted a spot. Neither placed any special demands on Cozart.

Cozart received approval from Bush and Hillsborough County officials before Oviedo began placing unusual demands on the event, Cozart said.

First, Lions coaches wanted reserved seating for their fans, then Division I college referees. Additionally, Cozart said Oviedo wanted the referees to have experience officiating the NCAA finals.

"We have qualified referees in our county and state," Cozart said. "I don't think the FHSAA would approve of that request, but that doesn't matter. I would be stabbing our state refs in the back to bypass them for this for this match."

Now Cozart will focus on the Ippolito Memorial Friday and Saturday, the Hillsborough County Championships the following weekend, then districts.

"We bent over backwards to change things around to wrestle them and give them a shot at the streak," Cozart said. "We will now focus on the rest of our season and they are welcome to wrestle us in the Graves next season."