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EAST LANSING, Mich. – Dec. 7 – A change in format for the Michigan High School Athletic Association Baseball Tournament was among notable actions taken by the Representative Council during its annual Fall Meeting, Dec. 1 in East Lansing, in addition to MHSAA basketball schedule changes for 2018-19 announced in a previous release Dec. 4.
Beginning with the 2019 tournament, baseball will move from its current one-day Saturday Regional and Quarterfinal the following Tuesday to a two-day “Super Regional” format. The Super Regional will begin with a Regional Semifinal on the Wednesday following District Finals, followed by two Regional Finals at the same site on Saturday. The winners of those two Regional Finals will then meet that same Saturday in a Super Regional championship game, with Super Regional winners then moving on directly to MHSAA Semifinals the following Thursday and Friday.
Both Regional champions will continue to receive trophies. No trophy will be awarded for the Super Regional champion. The MHSAA Softball Tournament, which runs concurrently with baseball’s event, will continue with the traditional schedule of Saturday Regionals followed by Tuesday Quarterfinals and then Semifinals and Finals the final weekend of the season.
The change for baseball is intended to provide teams more opportunities to use their top pitchers in the most meaningful games of the season, and was proposed by the MHSAA Baseball Committee prior to the Representative Council’s May 2017 meeting. However, the proposal was tabled at that time to give MHSAA staff an opportunity to observe how a new pitch-count rule – mandated to begin with the 2017 season by the National Federation of State High School Associations – might figure into possible changes to the tournament schedule.
The Council also took action in 8-player football, following up its decisions at earlier 2017 meetings to add a second division of playoffs and play this past season’s Finals at the Superior Dome in Marquette.
The Council’s latest actions dealt with schools’ eligibility to compete in the postseason. The Council voted to continue using the maximum enrollment for a Class D school as the limit to participate in the MHSAA 8-Player Football Playoffs. However, the Council also approved an allowance for schools that sponsored 8-player with a Class D enrollment one year to remain eligible for the 8-Player Playoffs the next year even if the school’s enrollment rises above the Class D limit. That allowance lasts only one year; the school’s enrollment must fall back below the Class D limit after for it to remain eligible for the 8-player postseason.
Generally, the Council takes only a few actions during its Fall Meeting, with topics often introduced for additional consideration and actions during its meetings in winter and spring.
The Council began conversation on a possible MHSAA role providing assistance to schools for scheduling regular-season football games, a task often cited as among the most difficult for administrators and especially those whose programs are among the most successful. The Council considered approaches used in other states and two options of what could be done to assist MHSAA member schools. A trial run paper study will be conducted for scheduling 8-player football for the 2018 season, distributed to Class D 8-player schools in April. The study will consider an option where schools would be split into two equal divisions, then four regions per division, from which each school would then schedule seven of its nine games for the upcoming season while leaving the other two dates open to play schools from other regions, the other division or other states.
Following up its request of staff at the May meeting to conduct a review of the MHSAA transfer rule, the Council discussed possible revisions to the rule that would make it sport-specific. The changes would allow for immediate eligibility for a transfer student in sports he or she had not participated in at the high school level prior to the transfer – which is more lenient than the current rule – but also stipulate a one-year period of ineligibility in those sports the transfer student had played in at the high school level during the school year prior to transferring, which is a longer period of ineligibility than currently required. The possibility of a sport-specific transfer rule has been discussed at league meetings and athletic director in-service and MHSAA UPDATE meetings over the last six months and will continue to be discussed at multiple venues this winter including the League Leadership meeting and Michigan Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association conference, with a possible Council vote at its 2018 March or May meetings.
The Council as well continued its recent work on junior high/middle school athletics, examining survey results and other discussion on the possibility of allowing athletes in any sport except football to participate in a maximum of two non-school events during the school season in that sport, after tabling in May a Junior High/Middle School Committee recommendation to approve that proposal. The Council also discussed increasing the number of contests allowed each season and adding more MHSAA sponsored events at the junior high/middle school level, with action on all three topics possible in March or May.
In addition, the Council discussed the potential for beginning volleyball season two days earlier and also ending it seven days earlier, supported by 90 percent of athletic directors who responded to a survey on the topic but opposed by the Michigan Interscholastic Volleyball Coaches Association; and continued an ongoing discussion of options for potentially seeding basketball at the District level. The Council also began discourse on the process for identifying potential athletic programs and additional student populations the MHSAA could serve during the decade ahead.
The Fall Meeting saw the addition of Justin Jennings, superintendent for Muskegon Public Schools, to the 19-person Council. He was appointed to a two-year term. Jennings fills the position formerly held by Cheri Meier, assistant superintendent for Okemos Public Schools, whose term ended. Also, Courtney Hawkins, athletic director at Flint Beecher High School, was re-appointed for a second two-year term.
The Council re-elected Scott Grimes, assistant superintendent of human services for Grand Haven Area Public Schools, as its president; and Vic Michaels, director of physical education and athletics for the Archdiocese of Detroit, as secretary-treasurer. Saginaw Heritage athletic director Pete Ryan was elected as vice president.
The Representative Council is the legislative body of the MHSAA. All but five members are elected by member schools. Four members are appointed by the Council to facilitate representation of females and minorities, and the 19th position is occupied by the Superintendent of Public Instruction or designee.
The MHSAA is a private, not-for-profit corporation of voluntary membership by more than 1,500 public and private senior high schools and junior high/middle schools which exists to develop common rules for athletic eligibility and competition. No government funds or tax dollars support the MHSAA, which was the first such association nationally to not accept membership dues or tournament entry fees from schools. Member schools which enforce these rules are permitted to participate in MHSAA tournaments, which attract more than 1.4 million spectators each year.