Seeding Questions

April 6, 2015

The more I hear people speak with absolute certainty that seeding MHSAA tournaments would be a good thing for more sports to implement, the less I’m certain that adequate wisdom accompanies those words. And I’m particularly concerned with the condescending attitude of the advocates toward those who question if seeding is practical or fair for MHSAA tournaments.

Before seeding is adopted for additional MHSAA tournaments (and it appears ice hockey is on the fastest track), there are many practical questions to address for each sport, including who decides, how they decide and when they decide. Seeding in school sports is a much more difficult task than it is at higher levels where there are many fewer teams operating in much less diverse settings.

Any successful proposal for seeding in school sports must be able to give an informed “No” to these questions:

  • Will the plan cause the “rich to get richer,” the successful to be even more successful?
  • Will the plan add fuel to the public vs. nonpublic school discord?
  • Will the plan create additional travel expenses for schools and loss of classroom instructional time for students?

Furthermore, any successful seeding plan must also provide an informed “Yes” to these questions:

  • Will the plan promote the tournament among schools, media and the public?
  • Will the plan increase tournament attendance?

And it is of most importance that every advocate of seeding acknowledge that opponents of seeding pose the right questions when they ask:

  • Is it fair and is it right to ease the tournament trail for teams based on their regular season performance?
  • Is a brand new start in the postseason bad, and if so, by what educational criteria?

When people boast that “the seeds held” in the NCAA basketball tournament or in our own MHSAA Tennis Tournament, we have to admit that this is exactly what ought to have happened when we gave the top seeds the easiest road to the trophy.

It is not wrong to question if that’s the right thing to do.

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.