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Bottom Lines

The cost of everything in everyday life seems to rise every year. Everything, that is, except the bread and butter revenue source of the Michigan High School Athletic Association.

Next school year – 2017-18 – is the 14th straight year that ticket prices for the District level of MHSAA basketball and football tournaments have remained unchanged; and it’s the 15th consecutive year without increase at the Regional level of those tournaments. Five bucks.

Meanwhile, the cost of venues hosting some MHSAA championships is rising rapidly. Even if calendar conflicts were not evicting the MHSAA from Michigan State University’s Breslin Center, steeply increased expenses could have the same effect.

There was a time when universities across the US wanted state high school association tournaments using their on-campus facilities. This was a public service as well as a marketing tool for those institutions.

Today these universities derive much more revenue from higher international student tuition than is paid by the in-state students who first come to the campus to play in or watch state high school championships. Even more important than tuition dollars are research grants, royalties and donations to what is now the big business of higher education.

Where campus athletic facilities are operated outside the athletic department it is even more evident that money trumps the mission of public service, at least as it relates to facility usage and secondary school athletic programs which, to be sure, are less important than the search for world peace and cancer cures by our universities.

People might believe it’s more appropriate for MHSAA events to be on college campuses than in commercial arenas; but frankly, it’s getting hard for us to see a difference. The bottom line drives them both.

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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.