Committees Fail Critical Issues

June 7, 2013

Over the years I have become increasingly impatient with the MHSAA’s committee process.  On the one hand, it is a nice exercise in democracy to involve each year more than 500 different people on more than 40 standing committees, including at least one for each MHSAA tournament sport.  However, it’s too often a superficial process that seems indifferent to or incapable of dealing with the most important issues of school sports.

Typically, each sport committee meets once each year for three to five hours, during which time it considers proposals that come from schools, leagues and the state’s coaches association for the sport; and the proposals most often deal with allowing more regular-season events and more qualifiers to the MHSAA postseason tournament.

Occasionally there is a proposal that might improve sportsmanship.  But much more often the proposals would increase conflicts between academics and athletics and/or strain overstressed local budgets.  And almost never is there a proposal that would address the health and safety of participants (the Wrestling Committee has been an occasional exception and the Competitive Cheer Committee is a routine exception).

While coaches associations must shoulder some of the blame because they’ve brought MHSAA committees “trivial” topics, at least in comparison to the tougher health and safety topics, much of the cause of MHSAA committee ineffectiveness is that the committees don’t meet long enough or often enough to research serious problems and develop well-thought-out solutions.  That is forgivable because it is difficult to get commitments from busy people all across Michigan to be absent from their regular jobs and travel dozens or even hundreds of miles, and to do so multiple times each year – which is what it takes to more fully understand complex problems and more carefully construct solutions.  Meetings have to be few and they have to be efficient.

However, facing the worst publicity football has seen since the mid-1970s, we knew we had to supplement the football committee process.  We did so by appointing a special Football Task Force of optimum size and experienced, representative makeup to meet on however many occasions are necessary during 2013 to accomplish three purposes:

  •     Review practice policies to improve acclimatization of players and reduce head trauma.
  •     Review competition rules to reduce head trauma and the frequency of the sport’s most injurious game situations.
  •     Develop promotions that extol the value of football to students, schools and communities and the safety record of school-based football.

The promotional efforts have begun to be rolled out; game rule modifications are being investigated; and four proposals for changing football practice policies have been prepared.  They will be the topic of our next posting.

Connections: Novara Success Stretches Across State, Official Offers Encouragement

By Geoff Kimmerly senior editor

December 8, 2023

Separated by 527 travel miles – whether over Mackinac Bridge or around Lake Michigan, the Novara family celebrated nearly parallel football successes this fall.

At Portland, John Novara completed his 25th season as head coach leading the Raiders to a 12-1 record – their best since finishing Division 5 runner-up in 2018, and a second-straight Capital Area Activities Conference White championship on the way to reaching the Division 4 Semifinals.

At Kingsford, fifth-year coach Mark Novara led the Flivvers to a 10-2 record – their best since posting the same in 2004. Kingsford shared the Western Peninsula Athletic Conference Copper title and won a Division 5 District title, its first District championship since 2009.

John Novara graduated from Iron Mountain in 1989, and younger brother Mark graduated from Kingsford in 1993.

Similarly parallel, both teams were quarterbacked by Novaras. Dominic Novara directed the Raiders’ attack, and cousin Nic Novara led the Flivvers. Both are juniors. (Mark Novara was a Division III All-American at quarterback at Lakeland College in Wisconsin.)

One more connection: Portland athletic director Kevin Veale quarterbacked the Iron Mountain teams with John Novara as tight end long before they worked together downstate. Veale’s nephew Garrett Veale was a standout two-way lineman for Mark Novara and Kingsford this fall.

Small gesture, memorable connection

Dante DeGrazia’s senior season was sadly short-lived this fall, as he suffered a season-ending injury during the first half of South Lyon East’s opening game against White Lake Lakeland at Michigan Stadium.

South Lyon East's Dante DeGrazia (33) and official Chris Curtis meet for a quick hug during East's Week 5 game.But an official provided a memory the DeGrazias will not forget.

Chris Curtis had begun his 16th season as an official earlier that day at U-M, and stuck around to watch the Lakes Valley Conference matchup. A month later, he was officiating the East/Warren Mott game, and made sure to check in with DeGrazia – a small gesture, but a meaningful one as well and another reminder of the interconnectedness of communities within educational athletics.

When he heard my son wasn't able to play anymore, needed surgery and that he was a senior, he offered him kindness and a hug on the field,” Dante’s mother Dana DeGrazia wrote to East athletic director Greg Michaels. “As a parent whose son is going through a rough time dealing with losing his senior season, hearing this story from Dante means a lot to me and the support that was given to him and I wanted to reach out and tell him thank you.”

PHOTOS (Top) Kingsford football coach Mark Novara, far left, quarterback Nic Novara and Portland coach (and uncle) John Novara celebrate the Flivvers' District title. (Middle) South Lyon East's Dante DeGrazia (33) and official Chris Curtis meet for a quick hug during East's Week 5 game. (Photos courtesy of the Portland football program and DeGrazia family, respectively.)