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Sweating the Small Stuff - #3

I’m sure it discouraged some of our state’s high school football coaches to learn that the Representative Council of the Michigan High School Athletic Association did not approve at its May 6-7 meeting what some people refer to as the “enhanced strength of schedule proposal” for determining 256 qualifiers to the MHSAA’s 11-player football playoffs.

There was desire among some Council members to appease those who keep trying to reduce the difficulties that a football tournament causes for regular season scheduling and conference affiliations. Others noted that the proposal, as presented, could cause as much harm to some schools and conferences as it would help others, that it did not solve the scheduling problem but shifted it.

During spirited discussion, some Council members resurrected two ideas that have been rejected previously, such as (1) doubling the playoffs once again (and shortening the regular season to eight games), and (2) coupling a six- or seven-win minimum with the revised strength of schedule criteria. The pros and cons of each idea flowed freely.

And therein is the problem. If one digs down into the details of proposals, both old and new, there are both positive and negative aspects apparent, both intended and unintended consequences likely.

There can be paralysis in analysis; but when we are dealing with more than 600 high school programs and a physically demanding sport with fewer regular-season contests permitted than in any other sport, one cannot be too careful. Eliminating one of just nine regular-season games? Increasing first-round tournament mismatches? Disadvantaging larger schools locked in leagues or areas of the state where smaller schools predominate? These are not minor matters.

And until there are sensible answers, these are not trivial questions.

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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.