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Higher Stakes Means More Rules

We have more rules where the stakes are higher and agreement is lower.

This explains why there are more rules for students in secondary school athletics than speech, debate and drama, or band, orchestra and choral music.  Why there are more rules for high school athletics than for junior high/middle school sports.  Why there are more rules for some sports than others.  Why there are more rules and longer interpretations for some issues than for other issues of school sports.

The higher the stakes and the greater the resulting tendency of some people to try to gain unfair competitive advantage, the greater the need for rules.

“We choose to regulate those areas in which we compete most strenuously and can agree least readily,” Jeffry H. Orleans, Executive Director of the Ivy Group, said to the National Collegiate Athletic Association Presidents Commission Forum in the summer of 1988.  And those words go to the heart of the history, rationale and application of rules which most secondary schools of Michigan have adopted for their administration of interscholastic athletics.  Schools choose to have rules for those activities in which they compete strenuously and have difficulty agreeing.

  • It is why a certain amount of controversy is unavoidable in state high school association work:  if there is no argument, there is little effort to work on the things that need to be addressed.
  • It is why there are more and lengthier eligibility rules for students in secondary school athletics than in speech, debate and drama, or band, orchestra and choral music.
  • It is why, for a long time, there were more and lengthier rules for out-of-season basketball than other sports, and why that is now changing for volleyball, soccer, golf, tennis, swimming and other sports.
  • It is why the sections and interpretations of transfer/residency rules are so much longer and deal with so much more minutiae than is the case with other rules.

There would be no need for rules if we didn’t care about the outcomes of our program; but in educational athletics, that is, in sports sponsored by schools, we care that the program contributes to the mission of schools, which is to help prepare young people for the benefit of society.

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From the Director

From the Director is the official MHSAA Blog which will touch on pertinent school sports topics periodically throughout the school year from various MHSAA Staff.