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1998-99 Athletic Season Begins In August;
Rules Changes Announced In Basketball, Football & Soccer

EAST LANSING, Mich. -- July 28 - The excitement of another season of fall sports will soon begin for nearly a quarter of a million young student-athletes, as the 1998-99 athletic season opens with eight sports sponsored by member schools of the Michigan High School Athletic Association.

Practices for all fall sports can begin on August 10, except for a small number of football teams, which will begin on August 5. Nine schools, seven in the Upper Peninsula, were given permission by the MHSAA Executive Committee to begin competition a week earlier to help them secure a full schedule of games. All football schools conduct three required conditioning days of practice before beginning contact. Conditioning sessions may not include any pads. Houghton, Ironwood, Kingsford, Menominee, Stambaugh West Iron County and Stephenson will begin their grid seasons on August 28; while Powers North Central, Indian River Inland Lakes and Maple City Glen Lake open on August 29, with the latter two schools facing each other. All other football schools can begin varsity play on either September 3 or 4.

The remaining fall sports begin their practice schedules on August 10, and all but three sports can start competition that day. The first game date for boys soccer is August 21, girls swimming and diving may open activity on August 22, and girls basketball begins on August 24.

Two safety issues are addressed under National Federation of State High School Associations rules changes in football. The first prohibits the use of eye shields with less than 100 percent light transmission; the second prohibits defensive players from using their hands to slap a blocker's head. Additionally, the MHSAA Representative Council took action in May which requires that all varsity football games involving Michigan teams ending in a tie score after regulation play be decided by the MHSAA-approved tie-breaking procedure. The Council also revised the mercy rule in football so that a running clock will be used at all levels, for regular-season and playoff games, whenever a 35-point differential in the score is reached after the first half of play. The clock will run continuously except during called timeouts; the break between the third and fourth quarters and following a score; during penalty enforcement; and for safety reasons, such as injuries. Normal timing procedures resume if the point differential is reduced to less than 35 points.

Notable National Federation rules changes in basketball include a change in substitutions during multiple free throw situations, and how a team calls a time out. During multiple free-throw attempt situations, substitutions may only be made before the final attempt of the sequence and after the final attempt has been converted. With regards to calling time outs, a player or the head coach may now orally or visually request a time out. The MHSAA Representative Council voted in May to institute a mercy rule in basketball, which will be in effect at all levels for regular season and tournament play. When a differential of 40 or more points is reached after the first half, a running clock shall be used, with the condition that the running clock shall revert to regular time schemes when the differential is reduced to 30 or fewer points. In all cases, the clock shall stop for called timeouts and breaks between quarters.

In soccer, National Federation rule changes include: that a goal may be scored from a kickoff or goal kick; that a goalie may no longer touch the ball after receiving it directly from a teammate on a throw-in; an allowance for lateral movement by a goalkeeper during a penalty kick; and an adoption for a provision that the placement of the ball on the line for corner kicks is legal.

The 1998 fall campaign culminates with championships beginning with the Upper Peninsula finals in girls tennis on October 2 and wraps up with the girls basketball finals on December 5.

Here is a complete list of fall championship dates:
Girls Basketball: Districts -- Nov. 16-21
Regionals -- Nov. 23-25
Finals -- Dec. 1, 3-5

· Cross Country: U.P. Finals -- Oct. 17
L.P. Regionals -- Oct. 31
L.P. Finals -- Nov. 7

· Football: Pre-Regionals -- Nov. 6 or 7
Regionals -- Nov. 13 or 14
Semifinals -- Nov. 21
Finals -- Nov. 27-28

· L.P. Boys Golf: Regionals -- Oct. 9 or 10
Finals -- Oct. 16-17

· Boys Soccer: Districts -- Oct. 19-24
Regionals -- Oct. 26-31
Semifinals -- Nov. 4
Finals -- Nov. 7

· L.P. Girls Diving Quals -- Nov. 17
Swimming/Diving Finals -- Nov. 20-21

· Girls Tennis: U.P. Finals -- Oct. 2
L.P. Regionals -- Oct. 9-10
L.P. Finals --Oct. 16-17