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Upon Further Review . . .

A veteran track & field coach wrote critically that the Michigan High School Athletic Association has erred by not implementing numerous proposals of his state coaches association over the years. So this year I was an even more careful than usual observer of the fate of proposals from coaches associations and our own coach-dominated sport committees.

Some proposals from coaches associations don’t even make it to a vote at the MHSAA sport committee level. Others fail to get an affirmative vote, while still others are passed by the committee as a recommendation to the MHSAA Representative Council.

Each of the sport committee recommendations that is received by the time of the League Leadership meeting in mid-February is presented to the league administrators in attendance so they will be aware of what’s flowing in the pipeline toward the MHSAA Representative Council for a vote. It is intended that these sport committee recommendations will be discussed at meetings by each league, and that the MHSAA staff will be notified of questions or concerns that any proposal generates.

MHSAA staff – most often Associate Director Tom Rashid – take some of the proposals on the road, to both league meetings and Athletic Director In-Service programs, where experienced practical minds praise some proposals and poke holes in others.

Many of the recommendations are also discussed at the March conference of the Michigan Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association, and some are made “Position Statements” on which the MIAAA members vote at the conclusion of their conference. It’s interesting to observe that some recommendations that passed coach-dominated sport committees with unanimous support fail to receive 50 percent support by the athletic directors as they make a more circumspect review of the issue.

All along the way, the MHSAA staff is watching, listening, and learning. We learn, for example, that some proposals have negative unintended consequences, that other proposals lack sufficient research or even essential facts, and that in both cases, approval should be denied or at least delayed for more complete development and study.

That was a major theme of this past week’s Representative Council meeting when many committee proposals were, if not derailed, at least detained for later departure. For example:

  • A proposal to revise the limited team membership rule for 6th-, 7th- and 8th-graders that would allow during the school season up to two dates of non-school participation in all sports except football was tabled in order to gather more membership input.
  • A proposal to alter the three-decade-old MHSAA Baseball Tournament schedule was delayed to consider the effects of and questions raised by the pitching limitation rule that is new this year – a late requirement of the national rules committee.
  • A proposal to seed and bracket District and Regional Basketball Tournaments raised more questions than answers and did not advance.
  • A proposal to require observers in each group at all Lower Peninsula Boys and Girls Regional and Final Golf Tournaments was at least slowed.
  • A proposal to require two days rest between the Semifinal and Final games of soccer Regionals received a yellow card, even though the proposal has good intentions and is part of an evolving package of proposals to make that sport a healthier experience – with more attention to practice and training and less competition.
  • A national soccer committee rule change regarding the color of undergarments was delayed indefinitely by the Council, to avoid both unnecessary confusion and new costs.
  • A proposal to allow additional teams to advance from Regionals to Finals in the MHSAA Lower Peninsula Tennis Tournaments was not adopted – perhaps a good idea in good weather, but problematic in bad.

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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.