A dozen years ago, I asked our counterpart organizations in other states if they scheduled their schools’ regular-season varsity football games. Very few did so.
More recently, I’ve realized that I didn’t ask enough questions. It turns out that few statewide high school associations tell schools who they play each week of the regular season. However, many more give schools the group of opponents they may schedule. They place schools in leagues and/or districts and/or regions and instruct schools to schedule from among those schools only or predominantly.
I have been waiting for the tipping point where a sufficient number of high schools in Michigan are sufficiently stressed over scheduling football games that they would turn to the MHSAA to solve the problem.
I’m anticipating this might occur first among schools playing 8-player football, and that success there will lead to our assistance for 11-player schools.
One approach – the simpler solution – would work like this:
All 8-player schools within the enrollment limit for the 8-player tournament would be placed in two divisions on the basis of enrollment in early March. About 32 schools in each, based on current participation.
At the same time, each division would be divided into four regions of about eight schools.
In April, the schools of each region would convene to schedule seven regular season games for each school.
Based on current numbers, schools would still have two open weeks to fill, if they wish, for games with schools in other regions or of the other division or in neighboring states.
A second option – the date-specific solution – would provide every school its weekly schedule for all nine dates, or weeks 1 through 8, or weeks 2 through 8, depending on local preferences. This would not be difficult in concept once there is agreement on what criteria would be used and what value each criterion would have.
For example, one important criterion would be similarity of enrollment; another of great value would be proximity. Perhaps league affiliation would be a factor with some value. Perhaps historic rivalries would be another factor with a value. Then the computer spits out schedules for each school for every week for two years, home and away.
I don’t campaign for this task because, frankly, it will produce complaints and controversy. But if this organization exists to serve, then this is a service that today’s chronic complaints tell us we should begin to provide soon.
I suggest we do this for 8-player football for the 2019 and 2020 seasons (with a paper trial run for 2018). If it proves successful, we could expand the service to 11-player schools as soon after as they are satisfied with our efforts for 8-player schools.
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.
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.)