Contact: John Johnson or Geoff Kimmerly
517.332.5046 or firstname.lastname@example.org
EAST LANSING, Mich. – May 31 – Member schools of the Michigan High School Athletic Association have approved an amendment to the organization’s constitution, and language for its Handbook, which will allow for waiver of the association’s age limit under certain circumstances.
A two-thirds majority of votes cast is required to change the MHSAA Constitution. In a vote of schools conducted this month, 701 of 1,535 MHSAA member senior high and junior high/middle schools cast legal ballots, and 94 percent approved of the change.
The vote took place after the legislative body of the Association, the Representative Council, following months of conversation within the membership on the topic where schools expressed little desire to change the age regulation, took action at its Spring meeting to send a proposal of its own creation to member schools for a vote.
As a result of that vote, the Association’s age rule, under which a student who turns 19 prior to September 1 of a school year is ineligible for interscholastic athletics, may now be waived by the MHSAA Executive Committee. Here is a summary of the new rule:
• Prior to the waiver request by the member school, the student’s educational progress must have been delayed prior to initial enrollment in the ninth grade solely because of a medically documented disability under the federal Americans with Disabilities Act or Michigan’s Persons With Disabilities Civil Rights Act. (References to ADA and PDCRA are solely meant to gauge disabilities, and not to acquiesce that the MHSAA is covered by those acts.)
• At the time of the waiver request, the student must have a defined disability documented to diminish both physical and either intellectual or emotional capabilities, does not create a health or safety risk to participants, and does not create a competitive advantage for the team. The burden of proof rests with the school seeking the wavier.
• For those most disabled students to which waiver is granted by the Executive Committee, the maximum age rule would be extended one year. The four-year maximum enrollment limit would still apply.
• The rule also has a waiver provision at the junior high/middle school level for seventh and eighth grade athletics.
“The affirmative results reflect two things: first, that the proposal was well-conceived; and second, that Council members themselves turned many of their constituents’ votes from No to Yes,” said John E. “Jack” Roberts, Executive Director of the MHSAA. “This proposal would not have passed without the Council’s proactive efforts.
“Our challenge now is to demonstrate to the negative voters and to those many schools which didn’t cast a vote at all, that this is a narrow gate that preserves the integrity of the program as effectively as the previous rule that was so well understood and respected.”
The MHSAA Executive Committee consists of five members of the MHSAA Representative Council, which meets regularly during the school year to hear eligibility appeals submitted by member schools. The Executive Committee will finalize the application and procedure for the age eligibility waiver at its June meeting, so it can consider requests beginning with its two meetings scheduled in August. The Representative Council is the 19-member legislative body of the MHSAA. All but five members are elected by member schools. Four members are appointed by the Council to facilitate representation of females and minorities; and the 19th position is occupied by the Superintendent of Public Instruction or designee.
The MHSAA is a private, not-for-profit corporation of voluntary membership by nearly 1,600 public and private senior high schools and junior high/middle schools which exists to develop common rules for athletic eligibility and competition. No government funds or tax dollars support the MHSAA, which was the first such association nationally to not accept membership dues or tournament entry fees from schools. Member schools which enforce these rules are permitted to participate in MHSAA tournaments, which attract approximately 1.6 million spectators each year.
MEDIA ADVISORIES – Interviews with MHSAA Executive Director Jack Roberts may be coordinated by contacting John Johnson or Geoff Kimmerly at the MHSAA Office. There are also additional resources available for broadcasters upon request.