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Small School Issues Dominate Spring Representative Council Meeting

EAST LANSING, Mich. - May 20 - A variety of items affecting Class D schools, including the possibility of reducing the enrollment range in the smallest division of Michigan High School Athletic Association post-season tournaments for sports conducted with equal divisions, were among the actions taken by the Representative Council of the MHSAA at its Spring meeting, May 2-4, in Thompsonville.

The Spring meeting of the 19-member legislative body of the Association's 1,300-plus member schools is usually the busiest of its three sessions each year. The Council considered 42 sport committee proposals and discussed a number of eligibility and procedural issues.

Since the expansion of the concept of equal divisions in some MHSAA tournaments, there has been a concern raised by some Class D schools regarding the enrollment range between the largest and smallest school in the smallest division for some sports. The Council went on record in favor of reducing the enrollment range for the smallest schools' division in at least some sports, and directed the MHSAA staff to prepare classification modifications for at least some sports broken into equal divisions. The Council is scheduled to receive proposals in time for its December meeting.

"While the concept of equal divisions is widely supported, there is a need to monitor the enrollment range as it relates to Class D schools. Factors such as the type of sport - non-contact, contact, collision - may need to be factored into the equation, as well as the players required for each sport," said John E. "Jack" Roberts, MHSAA Executive Director. "We hope to have the membership review these ideas during the fall before they are presented to the Council for a possible vote."

The Council also acted to help the smallest high schools in Class D in their efforts to field athletic teams by raising the maximum enrollment for using seventh and eighth graders. Beginning with the 1999-00 school year, grade 9-12 high schools with enrollments of less than 100 students may use eighth graders on interscholastic teams in all sports except football, ice hockey and wrestling; and schools with enrollments of less than 50 students may use seventh and eighth graders. Previously, the respective limits were 75 and 35. There are 58 schools in the MHSAA senior high school membership which have fewer than 100 students enrolled; 13 schools have fewer than 50 students.

The Council also leveled the playing field in the area of cooperative agreements by eliminating a provision that co-ops involving only Class D schools could have their reclassification based on enrollment waived when only a few students from the secondary school took part.

In addition, the Council approved the creation of a task force to study issues related to the athletic participation of part-time students at member public schools. This issue has seen discussion in the Michigan Legislature this Spring. At a meeting of a House Appropriations Subcommittee on April 28, Roberts proposed the creation of an ad hoc committee by the Association, which would develop strategies for future consideration by the Representative Council to promote greater awareness and use of options that currently exist for interscholastic athletic competition by students who are less than full-time enrolled students at the school sponsoring the athletic program; and to explore additional options which may be considered by MHSAA member schools to expand such opportunities while providing the appropriate oversight of eligibility matters. The strategies developed will be presented during the annual Update series in the fall, with possible proposals to be given to the Representative Council at its December meeting.

Here is a summary of other actions taken at the Spring Representative Council Meeting:

The Executive Committee Was Given Authority To Grant Immediate Eligibility For Students Transferring Between Schools Involved In A Cooperative Agreement. In those situations where a student-athlete transfers between schools involved in a cooperative agreement, immediate eligibility may be granted only in the co-op sport or sports in which the student participated the previous season. Reasons for the transfer may not involve athletics, discipline and family finances, and must be clearly stated at the time of the transfer with support being presented from both schools. The transfer would be allowed only once.

Quoting MHSAA Associate Director Jerry Cvengros - "There has been a concern about schools participating in cooperative programs losing students, usually to the school primarily responsible for sponsoring the sport. This is an issue the Council has struggled with for the past two years, and allowing a one-time transfer with certain restrictions that both schools endorse will allow some flexibility in this area."

Added An Interpretation To The MHSAA Handbook Regarding Financial Assistance Provided By Boarding Schools. "Only those schools which qualify as boarding schools under Section 9 (of the MHSAA Handbook) may provide any assistance for room and board and only if based on financial need. In no other schools may room and board expense be included in the determination of school expenses and financial need." In order to qualify as a boarding school under MHSAA regulations, a school must have at least 25 students or 10 percent of its student population as enrolled boarding students.

In ice hockey, the Council voted to require the use of neck guards. The wearing of neck guards in ice hockey has been a recommendation in the National Federation of State High School Associations rules book for some time. In Michigan, the wearing of such protection gained momentum following an incident during the recently-completed season in which a player was severely cut accidentally by a skate during play.

Quoting Jack Roberts -- "Since neck guards are required for some youth-level play, the representative council felt that it was prudent, both for the health of the participants and the liability of the sponsoring organizations, to require the use of neck guards by MHSAA schools."

Required attendance of ice hockey school administrators at a pre-season meeting to discuss conduct issues. An administrator - an athletic director, principal or superintendent -- of each school sponsoring ice hockey, will be required to attend one of seven meetings around the state prior to the regularly-scheduled hockey rules meetings in October, to discuss conduct issues. Failure to attend the meeting would prohibit a school from entering the 2000 MHSAA Ice Hockey Tournament. The requirement was recommended by a group of MHSAA Tournament Managers in April following a series of on-ice conduct problems during the regular season and the MHSAA Tournament.

In Wrestling, Michigan Schools Will Continue To Maintain The Option To Utilize Home Weigh-Ins. Last month, the National Federation of State High School Associations eliminated this option from its Wrestling Rules Book, but the Council voted to allow its continuation in Michigan. Michigan will lobby to restore this option in the national rules.

Quoting MHSAA Assistant Director Bill Bupp - "The home weigh-in has proven in Michigan to benefit schools for regular-season meets as school time is not jeopardized by wrestlers concerned about making weight when they get to a meet at the end of a day. The home weigh-in protects the academic day and, when coupled with our scientific-based weight monitoring program, is not unhealthy."

A Modification Was Made In The Michigan Weight Monitoring Program To Permit The Parental Permission Feature To Be Allowed Based Only On The First Weigh-In. In the first two years of this program, wrestlers were assigned a minimum weight they may compete at based on a weigh-in and body fat measurements at the beginning of the season. Previously, the assigned minimum weight could be appealed, and following a second weight/body fat measurement, a parental permission could be obtained to allow a wrestler to drop to a weight class if it were within 3 percent of the new assigned weight.

Quoting Bill Bupp - "One of the challenges of weight monitoring programs in Michigan and other states is the parental permission feature. There is potential for abuse by overzealous coaches and parents. Allowing the parental permission feature to be exercised only after the initial weigh-in and body fat measurements will not only streamline the weight monitoring program, but also protect student-athletes from being subjected to an assigned weight they would probably struggle to maintain throughout the season."

In Golf, Approved Procedures To Allow Additional Teams And Individuals To Qualify For The Second Day Of The MHSAA Lower Peninsula Finals. The Council approved the recommendations of the Golf Committee to allow the top 12 scorers and all other players who are within 7 shots of the individual lead after the first day of competition to compete for individual honors on the second day of the tournament; and to allow all teams tied for 12th place after the first day to compete on the second day. Previously, the scores of the 5th player on tied teams were used to break 12th-place ties.

Quoting MHSAA Assistant Director Suzanne Martin - "The adoption of these proposals will provide additional opportunities for young women and men to participate in the entire 36-hole tournament at the finals, and should not impact the timetable for the final day of play in a major way."

In Girls Soccer, The MHSAA Tournament Series Will Begin One Week Later Beginning In 2000. A week will be added to the regular season, with the District tournament beginning the week of Memorial Day. The Girls Soccer Finals, beginning in 2000, will now fall on the same weekend as the MHSAA Baseball-Softball Finals.

Quoting Suzanne Martin - "This change will take some pressure off of as there will be more of an opportunity to reschedule cancelled games because of bad weather or poor field conditions."

Will Now Allow In MHSAA Soccer Tournament Play, The Use Of Approved Artificial Playing Surfaces. Since the mid 1980's MHSAA Tournament play was prohibited on artificial turf because of its impact on the game. The MHSAA Soccer Committee recently heard requests from schools considering the installation of new styles of artificial surfaces that the policy should be revisited, and forwarded a recommendation to the Council to allow the use of certain types of fields. The Council approved the policy change, with the MHSAA staff to approve the use of artificial surfaces being considered for tournament play.

Quoting Suzanne Martin - "When the MHSAA Soccer Tournament began in 1982-83, it was felt that artificial turf would provide great playing conditions, especially in the late Fall. However, there was a negative impact on the game. The recent advances in new styles of artificial fields have given us playing surfaces which are now comparable to natural grass in many respects, and playing tournament games on these surfaces will allow the game to be decided on the field, not by the field."

In Track & Field, The MHSAA Staff Was Directed To Study The Concept Of A Team Tournament. The idea of having a separate tournament to determine a team champion in track and field was presented to the Council by the Track & Field/Cross Country Committee. The proposal was not approved by the Council, which voted to have the MHSAA Staff prepare a report regarding the details of how such a tournament might be conducted, and how that tournament would affect the membership.

Quoting MHSAA Assistant Director Nate Hampton - "A survey at last year's Update Meeting series indicated that only about 50 percent of school administrators supported the concept of a team championship in track and field, but the track community is enthusiastic about the possibilities, especially after an unofficial championship was conducted last Spring, and plans are progressing for a similar meet this year. We need to get a better idea of how such a meet would be conducted and if there is widespread support of this concept by school administrators and coaches."

In Tennis, A Survey Will Be Conducted Regarding The Desirability Of Adding A Fourth Doubles To MHSAA Tournament Play. For a number of years, the Tennis Committee has recommended the addition of a Number Four Doubles to the MHSAA Tournament Series. The survey ordered by the Council will determine if the use of this flight is supported statewide by both small and large schools.

Quoting MHSAA Assistant Director Gina Mazzolini - "We need to see if fourth doubles is truly in use across the state by schools of all sizes and of all calibers of play. There has been a feeling that the only schools which will benefit from the addition of this flight are those large schools with large numbers of players out for the team, and that smaller schools or schools which struggle to field teams will be hurt. We will also try to determine which schools may be willing to host MHSAA tournaments with the addition of a new flight, and securing venues at which to play. This survey will give us a better handle on the situation."

In other actions, the Council acted to stipulate that students at schools utilizing trimesters which are academically ineligible at the end of a trimester will remain ineligible for the next 90 school days; increased the number of regular season competitions in Girls Competitive Cheer from 8 to 12; approved the Wrestling Committee recommendation to allow only regular season matches between competitors who are both varsity wrestlers to qualify for seeding consideration in a Lower Peninsula Individual District Tournament; approved the use of four sites for conducting the Lower Peninsula Tennis Finals; and granted permission for the Upper Peninsula Athletic Committee to prepare proposals to reclassify into equal divisions those MHSAA Tournaments which are limited to Upper Peninsula schools.

The Council also reviewed reports on cooperative programs, of which 130 exist at the high school level, and 42 at the junior high/middle school level; eligibility advancement applications, which numbered 31 for 1998-99; school violations; attendance at athletic director and coaches in-service workshops; on 11,066 officials being registered; rules meeting attendance; officials reports submitted for the past three sports seasons; and training and awards activities for officials during April. The Association's $6.8 million budget for the 1999-00 school year was also approved.

The Representative Council is the 19-member 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.