November 20, 2015

For nearly a full century, the high schools of Michigan have stood in opposition to national high school athletic championships. As they existed in the early years of school sports, and even today, such events have very often exploited students and benefited commercial sponsors most. Such events are beyond the limited resources of most local schools; and allowing one school to participate tends to require other schools to go to the same extremes to remain competitive, creating the kind of arms war in school sports that now drives college sports further and further from their academic mission.

A decade ago, Michigan school districts added the following language to permit participation in national scope tournaments by individuals and groups of young people who had no connection to or similarity with a school team on which they had participated during the school season. The full and complete rule states:

A national high school championship includes any athletic event, regardless of title, which attempts to draw to it or its qualifying rounds only the top place winner or winners from more than one state high school association championship meet or is based upon high school regular-season or postseason tournament performances. A student may participate without loss of eligibility if all of the following conditions are met:

a. The event is not called or promoted as a national high school championship;
b. Qualification is not based on performances in the high school season or MHSAA tournament results;
c. The event is open to all non-school teams or individuals who qualify directly through one or more non-school events, or the event is without qualifying standards and is open to any individual who pays the entry fee;
d. If a team event, teams are not to be made up of students from a single MHSAA member school;
e. Teams and individuals do not represent an MHSAA member school; and
f. No MHSAA member school uniforms, transportation, funds or coaches are involved.

It is important to note that included in the universe of unapproved events are those tournaments, regardless of what they are named or for which there are qualifying rounds,  which ATTEMPT to draw the best performers from the high school season. Whether or not this attempt is successful ... whether the event attracts the best performers or only the second-, third-, fourth- or worse performers ... the student-athletes of Michigan school districts may only participate if there is compliance with ALL SIX elements listed.

The intent of part "d" of the rule is to help assure that the participating teams from Michigan really and truly are NOT school teams, and to assure that no school team is masquerading as a non-school team but really extending the season beyond the limits agreed to by all school districts, thus undermining the fairness that other schools expect.

This 10-year old rule has been applied to every circumstance brought to the MHSAA's attention and to countless more where school districts knew and followed the rule without guidance from the MHSAA. It is such respect for rules that we honor and encourage, even as the organization facilitates a thorough vetting of rules prior to school districts joining the MHSAA by local board of education action each year.

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.