Controlling Authority

On occasion, someone who does not like a rule of sports applied to his or her child’s situation will suggest that the Michigan High School Athletic Association has misunderstood or misapplied the rule . . . and then proceeds to tell us (or a court of law) what the rule really says or means.

At such times, we are tempted to quote from the Honorable Frank H. Easterbrook’s Foreword to Reading Law by Antonin Scalia and Bryan A. Garner. Judge Easterbrook, who retired in 2013 from the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, wrote: “The text’s author, not the interpreter, gets to choose how language will be understood and applied.”

The true and intended meaning and application of MHSAA rules and regulations are determined at the time they are adopted by their authors – MHSAA Representative Council and staff – not at the time they are challenged by those who find the meaning and application inconvenient.

For this reason, courts customarily, and correctly, do not intervene . . . do not substitute their judgment for that of the authors and administrators of the rules.

The controlling case in Michigan, by the Michigan Court of Appeals in 1986, held that courts are not the proper forum for making or reviewing decisions concerning the eligibility of students in interscholastic athletics.


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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.