Striking A Balance

January 23, 2018

This past fall, the feature topic of the seven Update Meetings of the Michigan High School Athletic Association was the Transfer Rule ... its history, rationale and reasons why it should and shouldn’t be altered to counter the transfer epidemic that school of choice laws and the youth sports travel team culture have infected upon school-sponsored sports in this and other states.

The Update Meeting presentation included cautions that, while the vast majority of school administrators and coaches want a tougher and tighter transfer rule with longer periods of ineligibility and fewer exceptions that permit immediate eligibility, many people outside of school sports believe such changes would infringe upon their individual choices; and even some people involved in school sports at the local level lose interest in supporting the rules already in place when they are applied to their own situation.

The Update Meeting concerns have been legitimized during more recent months in both high and low profile situations.

There are suggestions that the MHSAA should have an investigations department to search for and penalize athletic-oriented transfers and unscrupulous acts by coaches, parents and others. Which is a foolish notion. The MHSAA does not have subpoena power, can’t perform wiretaps, and cannot devote the personnel and other resources that an investigations department would require. Even with hundreds of millions of dollars in resources, the NCAA has not been able to execute that function for intercollegiate sports, and recently the FBI stepped in to do the difficult work. 

As has been its long-standing and generally effective practice, the MHSAA relies heavily on its member schools to help enforce its rules, which schools agree to do as a condition of their voluntary membership.  

At the other extreme are suggestions to do away altogether with transfer eligibility rules. Let anything and everything go. Which is what we call the AAU, an incompatible approach to student-centered, school-sponsored sports. 

Striking a balance is a difficult, but worthwhile endeavor. To that end, the MHSAA Representative Council works tirelessly on behalf of member schools to establish the proper set of rules to create competitive equity.

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.