Basketball Tournaments on the Move?

It is uncertain where the Michigan High School Athletic Association Boys and Girls Basketball Tournaments, currently at the Breslin Center of Michigan State University, will be conducted in 2018 and 2019; and after that, there are questions of when they will be conducted.

The most serious of several concerns is that MSU can no longer guarantee Breslin’s availability for the MHSAA Semifinals and Finals. This is the result of a change in the format of the NCAA Division 1 Women’s Basketball Tournament that assigns its 16 regionals to the top 16 seeded teams.

That schedule conflicts with the MHSAA Girls Basketball Semifinals and Finals in 2018 and 2020, and with the MHSAA Boys Basketball Semifinals and Finals in 2019.

In 2016, when MSU’s women’s basketball team was highly seeded, it had to travel to Mississippi State University because the MHSAA girls tournament was occupying Breslin. The contract that guarantees MHSAA priority ends with this year’s tournament, March 16-18.

The MHSAA is proceeding on two tracks. First, it has just distributed a “Request for Proposal” to MSU and other potential hosts for at least 2018 and 2019. There are options for venues to submit proposals for boys, girls or both.

Second, the MHSAA has begun what is likely to be a long discussion regarding dates. For example, if the girls season started and ended one week earlier, the NCAA conflict may not occur. However, this would likely require a one-week earlier end to the girls volleyball season in the fall, which some people have advocated but others are certain to oppose.

A flipside variation of this idea is to start and end boys basketball season two weeks earlier than is the case now, and to delay the start and end of girls basketball season by one week. This is a means of reducing the volleyball/basketball overlap for girls in November, and it would avoid that March weekend when the NCAA Division I women’s tournament can be a conflict in March.

Another option is to start the boys season one week earlier, extend the girls season one week later, and conduct the two tournaments simultaneously over four weeks – different days of the same weeks for Districts and Regionals; with Semifinals for both genders around the state on the weekend when the girls tournament has ended in the past; and then Finals for boys and girls at a single site on the Friday and Saturday when the boys tournament has traditionally ended.

Unless things change at the NCAA level, none of these models guarantees a schedule that is always free of conflicts with both the boys and girls MHSAA tournaments. Therefore, other innovative but possibly even more intrusive, changeable and tradition-breaking calendar adjustments could also be investigated that might provide a better long-term solution than merely changing venues.

Venue decisions are the responsibility of MHSAA management and should be made by early May. Calendar changes, if any, will be membership driven and may take more than 18 months to finalize.

Posted in: Basketball


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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 45 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 nine years, and is a past-chair of the board of directors of the Michigan Society of Association Executives. He is chair of the board of trustees for the Capital Region Community Foundation for 2018.

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.