posted on September 10, 2015 09:34
Contact: John Johnson or Geoff Kimmerly
517.332.5046 or firstname.lastname@example.org
EAST LANSING, Mich. – Sept. 10 – The Michigan High School Athletic Association has ruled the varsity football game scheduled for Sept. 4 between Muskegon Heights Academy and Muskegon Catholic Central High School as a “no-play,” with no forfeit victory awarded and both teams now considered for playoff selection purposes as playing eight-game schedules this season.
The following is a statement from Executive Director John E. “Jack” Roberts and will serve as the MHSAA’s only comments on the matter:
“We want to avoid giving support to a mindset where the phrase ‘concern for safety’ justifies any course of action, including unrealistic playing rules and administrative policies.
“We expect, for example, that the national high school football rules makers will not outlaw all blocking and tackling and that local school officials will not insist upon bubble wrap for players. Even in an unpredictable world, we expect the people in and around school sports to be reasonable in their expectations.
“Furthermore, within the MHSAA, we expect people involved to communicate with one another and to reach consensus if not unanimity about the best of practical options when something unusual and unexpected occurs.
“As to the events that led to the unplayed football game between Muskegon Catholic Central and Muskegon Heights last Friday night, there was not the level of communication necessary to reach a mutual understanding and decision by the local school authorities.
“From the reports the MHSAA requested and received from the two schools, it is clear that public safety authorities in Muskegon did well in communications to MCC authorities, but communication with public safety authorities in Muskegon Heights was lacking; and this seems to have contributed to the different perspectives of those most directly involved regarding the event in question.
“MHSAA rules state that the failure on the part of a member school to fulfill a game contract may subject a school to probation or suspension. The rules are more specific as to football, stating that if a school forfeits a varsity football contest and it is alleged by the opponent that the forfeit is for reasons other than health or risk issues or other compelling circumstances but rather to avoid competition, the administration of the forfeiting school must appear before the MHSAA Executive Committee to show cause why other sanctions than forfeiture should apply. And football has the additional policy that states: ‘Refusal to play for any reason will be recorded as a win for the aggrieved school and a loss for the offending school. All Playoff and bonus points will be awarded even if the game was not played.’
“In the case before us, there is no suggestion whatsoever that MCC was seeking to avoid competition; rather, MCC was responding to what it was advised by public safety authorities were credible safety risks. While those concerns may have been real, the case could be made that those risks would be nearly as great had the game been played at very nearby MCC, or nearly as great if the game had been played the following day.
“Moreover, the case may attempt to be made that these risks will be nearly as great at these venues throughout the remainder of the season, and could cause both schools’ remaining opponents to consider the same action that MCC took last week. That would only add to the tragedies that have occurred and have had nothing whatsoever to do with students or others associated with Muskegon Heights Schools.
“It is the MHSAA’s desire to do nothing that will encourage opponents of these schools to cancel their scheduled contests or to encourage schools in other parts of the state to use shakier ‘concerns for safety’ to justify no-shows. The most certain way to avoid this spreading statewide would be to record the game as a forfeit awarded to Muskegon Heights because of the failure of MCC to play.
“However, because we have complete confidence in MCC’s motivation for not playing on the night of Sept. 4 and also note its efforts to reschedule the game last weekend, which were unsatisfactory to Muskegon Heights, we have determined the Week 2 game is a ‘no-play.’ This penalizes neither team, which we believe is most appropriate; and it allows either team to qualify for the MHSAA Football Playoffs by winning five of its (now) eight regular-season games this season.
“This decision is for this instance only, acknowledging the proximity of events that took place only a few hours prior to the scheduled start of this contest and the role of public safety officials.”
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