Seeking Input on Seeding

November 21, 2017

Seeding is a part of some levels of some Michigan High School Athletic Association tournaments, but no part of any level of MHSAA tournaments for other sports. The decisions are made sport-by-sport and level-by-level after sufficient understanding of a specific plan and broad support. 

Seeding deals with logistics, not a fundamental value of educational athletics. It gets outsized attention for its importance, having nothing to do with the interactions that lead to learning and growing in interscholastic athletics. It’s another byproduct of the ever-increasing influence of the pervasively promoted and televised NCAA’s basketball tournaments over the past 25 years.

Michigan’s high school sport most engaged in the topic now is, in fact, basketball. Discussions and surveys have been conducted regarding seeding at MHSAA District tournaments.

We’ve learned this summer and fall that a majority of our local school athletic directors favor seeding and do not think it will make regular-season scheduling more difficult nor cause coaches to delay or diminish substituting during regular season games.

We’ve learned that a majority favor a system that maintains geographically determined District tournaments and merely separates the top two seeded teams in each District, and continues to use a blind draw to place other teams assigned to the District on the bracket.

We’ve learned that a majority favors having the best two teams determined primarily through objective criteria assessed by an MHSAA created or controlled ranking system.

We’ve learned that while the majority favors these moves toward District seeding, there are significant pockets of opposition to any seeding at all in MHSAA basketball tournaments. At two of six Athletic Director In-Service meetings and at two of seven Update meetings in September and October, large majorities in attendance opposed seeding of District basketball tournaments; and voters were nearly evenly split at several other meeting sites. 

The discernible pattern is that seeding loses support as one moves out of the more densely populated areas of Michigan. We need to better understand why this is so, and what’s behind these regional or demographic preferences; then have the Representative Council make a decision at its meeting in March or May; and get this topic decided one way or the other.  

There is so much else that is so much more important than seeding to the health of school-sponsored basketball that deserves the attention that seeding has been getting.

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.