By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
To provide for the convenience and safety of spectators attending the Michigan High School Athletic Association 11-Player Football Finals at Ford Field in Detroit, Nov. 28 and 29, attendees are being advised of a variety of items related to transportation and security – including policies regulating types of bags allowed into the stadium.
Parking will be available in Ford Field facilities and lots to the east and north of the stadium and cost $6. A map identifying the designated Ford Field lot (4) and parking deck can be found on the Football page of the MHSAA Website. (There also are a number of privately-operated parking facilities close to Ford Field, but their pricing may differ.)
Fans also are advised that tailgating, including the setting up and use of grilling equipment, and the consumption of alcohol, is prohibited in Ford Field parking facilities and lots.
Gates A, B and G will be available for public entrance during the event. Ticket sales will begin near Gates A and G at 8 a.m. each day, and the building will open its doors to spectators at 9 a.m.
Tickets are priced at $10 and allow a fan to see all four games in a single day. Spectators leaving the stadium will be required to purchase another ticket for re-entry. Children under the age of 2 will be admitted without charge for this event. There will not be a public Will Call window.
Upon arrival in the building, fans will find their designated seating areas on the South side of the field if their team is the designated home team for their contest and on the North side for the designated visiting team. Home teams this weekend are Clarkston, Muskegon Mona Shores, Muskegon, Grand Rapids South Christian, Grand Rapids West Catholic, Ithaca, Ishpeming and Munising. Brightly lit video boards above the seating areas will display the names of the participating teams each day, and fans should sit on the side of the stadium where they see their school’s name. For general fans, the entire lower bowl of Ford Field will be open for the event.
Security measures also will be in place to help assure spectator safety. Fans will be subject to a visual search, and Ford Field personnel reserve the right to request patrons open their coats, bags and other item-carrying vessels for visual inspection and deny entrance to individuals who do not cooperate. Items which fans will be prohibited from bringing into the building include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Purses larger than a clutch bag, coolers, briefcases, backpacks, cinch bags, grocery & paper bags, duffle bags, luggage of any kind, computer and camera bags and large camera cases.
- Aerosol cans (hairspray, mace, pepper spray, etc.)
- Animals (except service animals to aid guests with disabilities)
- Balloons (air or helium)
- Balls (beach balls, footballs, etc.)
- Banners or large flags
- Cameras with lenses longer than five inches
- Decals, stickers, confetti or glitter
- Electronic equipment including laptop computers, video recorders and video cameras, and tripods (hand-held video cameras are allowed)
- Food, beverages or liquids (cans, bottles, boxes, flasks, etc.)
- Illegal substances
- Knives, pocket knives, box cutters, scissors, etc.
- Laser pointers
- Markers (permanent) and/or paint
- Noisemaking devices (bells, horns, kazoos, whistles, etc.)
- Objects that can be used as missiles or projectiles (sticks, bats, clubs, Frisbees, etc.)
- Seat cushions
- Strollers and infant car seats or carriers
The following items will be permitted after inspection:
- Small bags, purses and fanny packs that do not exceed 8½ inches by 14 inches by 10 inches. An exception will be made for medically necessary items after proper inspection at a gate designated for this purpose.
- Diaper bags (only if accompanied by a child)
- Binoculars and binoculars cases
- Cameras and small camera cases (lenses may not measure longer than five inches)
- Small radios (no larger than the size of a football and used with an earpiece)
- Small hand-held video cameras (but no tripods or extension cords)
- Small, compact umbrellas (must be placed securely under seat)
- Posters and signs without poles or sticks, or larger than what one person can hold.
The complete list of prohibited items can be found on the Ford Field Web site under Policies & Info. Prohibited items that are discovered during security inspections at stadium entrances must either be returned to the owner's vehicle or discarded. Items will not be held for later pickup.
Fans are reminded that all image taking (still and video) may be only for personal, non-commercial use.
With the first girls basketball games, wrestling matches and ski races joining the event schedule this week, an estimated 65,000 athletes will be competing across the 13 sports for which the Michigan High School Athletic Association sponsors postseason tournaments.
Girls basketball tipped off Monday, Dec. 4, and the first boys and girls wrestling meets may take place Wednesday, Dec. 6. The first girls and boys ski races may begin Saturday, Dec. 9, when they will join competition already underway in boys basketball, girls and boys bowling, girls competitive cheer, girls gymnastics, boys ice hockey, Upper Peninsula girls swimming & diving, and boys swimming & diving across both peninsulas.
The MHSAA winter schedule concludes this 2023-24 school year with the Girls Basketball Finals on March 23. This will be the first time since 2018-19 that the girls basketball tournament will finish the winter season, a switch made necessary by the start of the NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament March 22-23 and the possibility Michigan State University could host first-round games at the Breslin Center, where the MHSAA plays both its girls and boys basketball Semifinals and Finals.
Three more sports will incorporate changes this season related to MHSAA Tournament format or qualification.
For girls and boys bowling, Regionals will be conducted at eight sites – instead of the previous six – with each site qualifying to Finals its top two team finishers and the top seven singles for both girls and boys competitions. For the Team Bowling Finals, match play has been switched to a head-to-head, best-of-five Baker game format, whereas previously the format included regular games rolled by individual bowlers.
In girls gymnastics, an addition to criteria is expected to classify gymnasts more accurately as Division 1 (most skilled/experienced) or Division 2 for MHSAA Tournament individual competition. Athletes who have previously competed in a non-school event at either the Sapphire or Diamond Xcel levels would be required to compete at the Division 1 level for MHSAA postseason competition. These designations were added to other criteria used to determine an individual competitor’s division.
A change that led to much larger event fields at the Lower Peninsula Girls Swimming & Diving Finals this fall is expected to produce the same at the LP Boys Swimming & Diving Finals this winter. Beginning this season, qualifying times have been determined based on the past five years of MHSAA race data, but also accounting for past numbers of qualifiers in each swim race – which should, as with the girls, allow for more boys to advance to the Finals in events where fields have not been full over the previous five seasons.
Additionally, the Competitive Cheer Finals will return to its traditional Friday-Saturday schedule, March 1-2 at McGuirk Arena at Central Michigan University, with Division 1 on Friday and Divisions 2-4 on Saturday.
This regular season, wrestlers have two more opportunities to compete. Teams are allowed two more dual meets (between two teams only, not to be converted into three or four-team meets), bringing the total allowed days of competition to 16 with no more than eight of those allowed for tournament-type events where a wrestler competes more than twice.
At those tournament-type events, wrestlers may now compete in up to six matches on one day of competition (as opposed to the previous five matches per day) – but an athlete may not wrestle in more than 10 matches over two consecutive days.
An adjustment to the awarding of free throws in basketball is likely to be the most noticeable in-game change for any winter sport this season. One-and-one free throws have been eliminated, and fouls no longer will be totaled per half. Instead, fouls are totaled and reset every quarter, and two free throws are awarded with the fifth foul of each quarter.
The 2023-24 Winter campaign culminates with postseason tournaments, as the championship schedule begins with the Upper Peninsula Girls & Boys Swimming & Diving Finals on Feb. 17 and wraps up with the Girls Basketball Finals on March 23. Here is a complete list of winter tournament dates:
Districts – Feb. 26, 28, March 1
Regionals – March 5, 7
Quarterfinals – March 12
Semifinals – March 14-15
Finals – March 16
Districts – March 4, 6, 8
Regionals – March 11, 13
Quarterfinals – March 19
Semifinals – March 21-22
Finals – March 23
Regionals – Feb. 23-24
Finals – March 1-2
Districts – Feb. 16-17
Regionals – Feb. 24
Finals – March 1-2
Regionals – March 2
Finals – March 8-9
Regionals – Feb. 19-28
Quarterfinals – March 2
Semifinals – March 7-8
Finals – March 9
Regionals – Feb. 12-16
Finals – Feb. 26
Swimming & Diving
Upper Peninsula Girls/Boys Finals – Feb. 17
Lower Peninsula Boys Diving Regionals – Feb. 29
Lower Peninsula Boys Finals – March 8-9
Wrestling – Team
Districts – Feb. 7-8
Regionals – Feb. 14
Finals – Feb. 23-24
Wrestling – Individual
Districts – Feb. 10
Boys Regionals – Feb. 17
Girls Regionals – Feb. 18
Finals – March 1-2
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.