Our Open Tournament

April 15, 2016

One of the criticisms we hear as a result of not seeding the MHSAA Girls and Boys Basketball Tournaments is that it doesn’t allow the best teams to avoid one another until later rounds of the tournament and often leads to anticlimactic Semifinal and Final games.

But, after spending thousands of hours and perhaps a million dollars to seed its Division I men’s basketball tournament, the NCAA had a 17-point mismatch when a No. 10 seed met a No. 1 seed in one national semifinal and a 44-point blowout between a pair of so-called No. 2 seeds in the other national semifinal.

Seeding is such an imperfect art, and teams can play so unpredictably from one day to the next in a one-and-done tournament, that seeding is more of a publicity stunt than it is a science on which to structure a tournament.

To send a team and its fans packing to distant venues on the basis of its winning percentage and margins of victory relative to other teams is not responsible policy at the high school level. It could be unsound fiscally and unsound educationally.

Our high schools enjoy a format that allows every high school entry into the MHSAA’s postseason tournament every year. If we were to limit our tournament to only 68 teams like the NCAA, seeding might be more practical. But as long as we accommodate 750 high schools in our Boys Basketball Tournament and 750 in our Girls Basketball Tournament, geographical districts with blind draws may be most appropriate.

The NCAA tournament, like so much of major college sports, caters to the few and most fortunate; so maybe seeding is good in that environment. But our high school basketball tournaments are open to all schools, and they require we make different decisions to serve those schools.

Cheering for Sportsmanship

July 31, 2018

(This blog first appeared on MHSAA.com 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.