06

Boring Impartiality

Some people – like our US President-Elect and, apparently, like NCAA Division I Football Playoff Selection Committee – seem to believe that all publicity, no matter how negative, is good publicity. If it draws attention to your candidacy or championships series, no matter how embarrassing, it’s okay – even good.

That’s not the belief of the Michigan High School Athletic Association. As an organization that must too often do unpopular things, like enforce rules that others don’t and impose penalties that others won’t, the MHSAA prefers to avoid creating controversy where there are options to do so.

The structure of MHSAA tournaments provides some options.

Tournaments which exclude no teams or individuals provoke less controversy than those with a limited field. Tournaments which favor no teams through a seeding scheme cause fewer arguments.

If our only purpose were to increase revenues, there is much we could do to gerrymander MHSAA tournaments in order to shorten, smooth out and straighten the tournament trail for the teams with the best records and biggest crowds during the regular season, like the NCAA women’s and NIT men’s basketball tournaments do.

But if fairness – blind, boring impartiality – is more important to us, then we will not force the teams with the poorest regular season records to face off in bracket rat-tails and we will not provide the teams with the best regular season records a tournament trail that avoids similar teams for as long as possible.

This approach opens us to criticism that we are dumb to be different and stupid to reject the revenue-generating practices of major college and professional sports organizations. But no one can claim we are unfair.

It’s not unfair to treat all schools the same. The unfairness begins – and real controversy follows – when an organization tries to favor some teams over others.

Posted in: Tournaments

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About the Author

Jack Roberts

Jack Roberts has been at the helm of the MHSAA as its Executive Director since 1986, implementing programs and overseeing tournament administration and regulations for the Association which boasts 1,500 member schools, 10,000 registered officials and 13,000 head coaches.

During the last 44 years, Roberts has spoken to educator and athletic groups, business leaders and civic groups in almost every state and five Canadian provinces. He is one of the nation's most articulate advocates for educational athletics.

Roberts has served on the board of directors of the National Association of Sports Officials (NASO), is in his second term on the board of the National Federation of State High School Associations, and is the first chairman of the NFHS Network board of directors. He has been board president for the Refugee Development Center for seven years, and is a past-chair of the board of directors of the Michigan Society of Association Executives. He is vice chair and secretary of the board of trustees for the Capital Region Community Foundation.

He is a 1970 graduate of Dartmouth College, where he played defensive safety for the Ivy League's winningest football team during that span, and he sang in Dartmouth's close harmony vocal group.

His wife, Peggy, has retired from a 30-year career in social services, and is serving as president of the board of the Fenner Nature Conservancy in Lansing.