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Sweating the Small Stuff - #2

Seeding of Michigan High School Athletic Association tournaments, especially basketball and ice hockey, is a topic that routinely finds its way to MHSAA Representative Council agendas.

In May of 2017, the Council rejected a comprehensive proposal to seed the District and Regional levels of MHSAA Basketball Tournaments; but the Council instructed MHSAA staff to examine ideas for limited seeding at the District level only, using an MHSAA-controlled system.

In May of 2017, it appeared there was a small number of Council members who supported the proposal submitted for that meeting by the Basketball Coaches Association of Michigan, and that there were two larger groups – one open to seeding on a more limited basis than BCAM proposed and another group opposed to seeding of any scope by any system.

MHSAA staff responded to the Council’s request by presenting in March of this year and again in May a plan for seeding only the top two teams of each District, to which teams would continue to be assigned by geographic proximity, and then placing top seeds on brackets that would assure those two teams could not meet until the District Finals.

The staff provided answers to the many obvious policy and practical questions, including the system to be used, the games to be included and the placement of teams on brackets.

The effort to arm the Council with these answers had the effect of turning some advocates into opponents of seeding. It was as if the more questions staff anticipated with answers, the more people objected to the plan.

This brought defeat to the plan to seed basketball Districts, and the same to plans to seed ice hockey Regionals and Semifinals.

The questions now are: Do we vote on a fully vetted plan, knowing the details before we move forward; or do we buy a pig in a poke, voting in a concept without details, surprising others and ourselves with how seeding would be implemented? And do we vote on anything at all until we have answered the large philosophical questions as well as the dozens of smaller practical questions that seeding requires we address.

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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.