Only in Football

November 22, 2011

There was a time when even undefeated teams might not qualify for the MHSAA Football Playoffs. Eventually, the playoffs were expanded to eight divisions, each of 32 teams, assuring any team which could manage six wins was an automatic qualifier, and also that many teams with only five wins would qualify (20 five-win teams in 2011).

It was anticipated that this would allow good teams to schedule like-size, nearby opponents without fear of a loss or two.  But some observers now complain that mediocre teams won’t schedule certain nearby opponents because they fear a fourth loss that could keep them from certain postseason play. Long-standing league affiliations are being stressed by this mindset.

There are very smart, very sincere people who want the MHSAA to once again expand the playoffs to, they hope, eliminate these problems; but the MHSAA has already done its part to accommodate football’s “uniqueness.”  For example. . .

  • It is only in football that MHSAA tournaments have more than four classes and divisions. In football there are now eight divisions for the 11-player game, plus one division for the 8-player game.
  • It is only in football that MHSAA tournaments are longer than three weeks. In football, it takes five weeks to crown champions in those eight divisions for the 11-player game.
  • It is only in football where first-round tournament matchups can result in round-trip travel of 600, 700, 800 or more miles.

Proposals that would create even more extravagance – more 11-player divisions, more weeks of playoffs and more long trips – all because schools are reluctant to schedule nearby opponents during the regular season – are all proposals that should be sacked.

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.