Controlling Authority

September 22, 2017

On occasion, someone who does not like a rule of sports applied to his or her child’s situation will suggest that the Michigan High School Athletic Association has misunderstood or misapplied the rule ... and then proceeds to tell us (or a court of law) what the rule really says or means.

At such times, we are tempted to quote from the Honorable Frank H. Easterbrook’s Foreword to Reading Law by Antonin Scalia and Bryan A. Garner. Judge Easterbrook, who retired in 2013 from the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, wrote: “The text’s author, not the interpreter, gets to choose how language will be understood and applied.”

The true and intended meaning and application of MHSAA rules and regulations are determined at the time they are adopted by their authors – MHSAA Representative Council and staff – not at the time they are challenged by those who find the meaning and application inconvenient.

For this reason, courts customarily, and correctly, do not intervene ... do not substitute their judgment for that of the authors and administrators of the rules.

The controlling case in Michigan, by the Michigan Court of Appeals in 1986, held that courts are not the proper forum for making or reviewing decisions concerning the eligibility of students in interscholastic athletics.

Cheering for Sportsmanship

July 31, 2018

(This blog first appeared on on January 8, 2013.)

I try to start each new school year at the Michigan Interscholastic Press Association summer camp at Michigan State University. I talk briefly about who the MHSAA is and what it does; and then two or three dozen high school newspaper editors and writers ask me questions; and in doing so, they give me clues to what’s going on in our schools and what’s important to our students.

Several years ago, when I opened the session to questions, one young man asked: “Mr. Roberts, what’s your job?” I paused, and then said, “I guess I’m the head cheerleader for high school sports in Michigan.”

So then this precocious student asked: “Okay, what do you cheer for?”  With a briefer pause, this is some of what I said:

  • I cheer for sportsmanship that’s not merely good, but great.

  • I cheer for sportsmanship, not gamesmanship.

  • I cheer for playing by the rules, both the letter and the spirit.

  • I cheer for maximum effort to try to win each and every contest.

  • I don’t cheer for winning at any cost; I do cheer for learning at every opportunity.

  • I cheer for losing with grace and for winning with even greater grace, with humility and modesty.

  • I cheer for the lessons of victory and the even greater lessons of defeat.