By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
Three athletic directors who have taken leading roles in important areas of educational athletics – Rockford’s Tim Erickson, Bay City Central’s Morley Fraser and Mattawan’s Ken Mohney – have been named recipients of the Michigan High School Athletic Association’s Allen W. Bush Award for 2017.
Al Bush served as executive director of the MHSAA for 10 years. The award honors individuals for past and continuing service to prep athletics as a coach, administrator, official, trainer, doctor or member of the media. The award was developed to bring recognition to men and women who are giving and serving without a lot of attention. This is the 26th year of the award, with selections made by the MHSAA's Representative Council.
Among many contributions, Erickson has built a strong reputation in officiating, while Fraser is a hall of fame coach and Mohney is an accomplished instructor of administrators on the state and national levels.
“These three administrators have contributed to educational athletics in a variety of ways, but are especially well-respected in specific areas of expertise – and the quality that binds them together is leadership,” MHSAA Executive Director John E. “Jack” Roberts said. “This award recognizes work behind the scenes, and Tim Erickson, Morley Fraser and Ken Mohney exemplify it. They are worthy recipients of the Bush Award.”
Erickson recently finished his 34th school year at Rockford, where he started his career in 1982 after earning a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University; he later added a master’s degree from CMU. He has served as the Rams’ athletic director for the last decade supervising 34 varsity teams and 140 staff members. Erickson also has served as an assistant principal for five years, two years each as student activities coordinator, middle school athletic director and 6-12 intramural director; and taught for 19 years.
A member of the Michigan Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association (MIAAA) and National Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association (NIAAA), Erickson’s vast contributions to educational athletics have stretched far beyond administration. A member of the West Michigan Wrestling Officials Association, he has served as a registered official for 37 years, currently in wrestling but previously as well for basketball, baseball, softball and volleyball. He has officiated an MHSAA Finals in wrestling, and also coached 42 seasons across a variety of sports, including four as the varsity baseball coach and as an assistant on Rockford football teams that won Division 1 championships in 2004 and 2005.
Rockford total has won 32 MHSAA Finals championships across 13 sports during Erickson’s tenure as athletic director. He and his staff also have hosted a variety of MHSAA tournament events at various levels, including 20 Finals. A member of the Rockford High School Athletic Hall of Fame, Erickson also has volunteered locally as a youth sports coach and participates with the Rockford Relay for Life. He’s served as building coordinator for the local United Way and stewardship chairman for his church.
“Tim Erickson continues to provide a wide range of valuable perspectives drawing from his experiences as not only as an administrator, but also as a coach and official,” Roberts said. “Those points of view are especially important as he continues to lead a successful department at one of our state’s largest schools – and as he and his staff continue to provide outstanding leadership as an annual host for a variety of our events, many at the highest levels of our tournaments.”
Fraser this spring completed his 39th year in education and 30th as an athletic director, recently retiring from his administrative duties at Bay City Central although he will continue to coach the football team. Fraser, who earned a bachelor’s degree from Alma College and master’s from CMU, joined the Bay City Central faculty in 1986 and took over as athletic director prior to the start of the 1998-99 school year. He also has served as an assistant principal at Bay City Central.
His Wolves football team returned to the MHSAA Playoffs last fall with a 6-4 record, and Fraser has built a 162-135 record in 31 seasons leading the program. Fraser also coached at Mendon and Bowling Green, Ohio, and was inducted into the Michigan High School Football Coaches Association (MHSFCA) Hall of Fame in 2011. His 1994 Bay City Central team finished Class AA runner-up, and he was named an MHSFCA Regional Coach of the Year that season, 1996 and also in 1978 while at Mendon (and in 1985 earned a similar award at Bowling Green). He was inducted into the Bay County Hall of Fame in 2013.
Also a member of the MIAAA and NIAAA, Fraser has spoken and presented at MIAAA and MHSFCA events and as part of Glazier Coaching Clinics. He’s been a keynote speaker at Rotary Club student leadership summer camps for the last decade and has served in an elementary students and athletes reading program and as part of Habitat for Humanity, assisting with summer projects.
“Morley Fraser has mentored hundreds of his football players over the last four decades, but his mentorship extends beyond the sport he’s coached most,” Roberts said. “Morley Fraser has created a legacy of service, success and stability with his longtime leadership at Bay City Central, and he continues to provide as well a respected voice in the football community across our state.”
Mohney has served as an administrator for 18 years with seven as a teacher and coach after earning bachelor’s and master’s degrees at Western Michigan University and while also serving from 1987-2007 in the U.S. Army. In addition to his work as an assistant principal and athletic director at Mattawan – the school received an MIAAA Exemplary Athletic Program Award in 2005 – Mohney has made significant contributions to his colleagues as a long-serving member of the MIAAA and NIAAA and as an instructor for the MHSAA Coaches Advancement Program.
A contributor to the MIAAA Board of Directors and Executive Board from 2002-14, Mohney served as Executive Board president in 2012-13 and on the NIAAA Board of Directors as Section IV representative (for five states) and as chairperson of the finance sub-committee. He has served on various committees both for the MIAAA and MHSAA, and in addition to his CAP instructor contributions has served on the faculty of the NIAAA Leadership Training Institute providing instruction both in Michigan and nationally. Mohney has earned NIAAA Certified Master Athletic Administrator status and MHSAA CAP Masters Elite certification, and also Certified Interscholastic Coach recognition from the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS). He was named a Regional Athletic Director of the Year by the MIAAA in 2008, earned its Denny Kiley Presidential Award in 2013 and its Jack Johnson Distinguished Service Award in 2014 – when he also earned special commendation from the NIAAA for distinguished service on its Board of Directors.
Mohney served as part of an Army helicopter air crew from 1987-91 and then as a flight and leadership instructor for the Michigan Army National Guard from 1991-2007. He received a U.S. Army Air Medal in 1991 for combat missions flown during Operation Desert Shield/Storm, a U.S. Army Achievement Award in 1998 as Michigan National Guard Solider of the Year and a U.S. Army Commendation Award in 2004 as Michigan National Guard Non-Commissioned Officer of the Year.
“Ken Mohney understands the values of education and teaching leadership not only to students at his school, but also those working to provide that education locally and on the statewide and national levels,” Roberts said. “He provides a steady influence among his peers as part of the MIAAA and has been essential in the growth of our Coaches Advancement Program by showing himself to be an exceptional relationship builder in all of his endeavors.”
More than 44 percent of athletes at Michigan High School Athletic Association member high schools participated in more than one sport during the 2021-22 school year, according to the Multi-Sport Participation Survey conducted this spring, the fourth such survey conducted by the MHSAA over the last five years to monitor the rate of specialization in school sports.
Early and intense sport specialization has become one of the most serious issues related to health and safety at all levels of youth sports, as overuse injuries and burnout among athletes have been tied to chronic injuries and health-related problems later in life. In early 2016, the MHSAA appointed a Task Force on Multi-Sport Participation as part of a continued effort to promote and protect participant health and address the issues leading to early sport specialization. The annual Multi-Sport Participation Survey, first conducted for the 2017-18 school year, was among results of the task force’s work. (No survey was conducted for 2019-20 as spring sports were canceled due to COVID-19.)
The MHSAA 2021-22 Multi-Sport Participation Survey received responses from 85 percent of member high schools, the highest response rate of the four years the survey has been conducted. Survey results showed a slightly lower percentage of member high school students participating in athletics compared to the inaugural survey in 2017-18 – but a higher percentage of multi-sport athletes among those playing at least one sport.
For 2021-22, schools responding to the survey showed 40.4 percent of their students participated in athletics during the last school year – 43.5 percent of boys and 37 percent of girls. Class D schools enjoyed the highest percentage of athletes among the entire student body, at 51.8 percent, followed by Class C (47.8), Class B (41.3) and Class A (37.7).
Those percentages – total and by Class – all were slightly lower than what was produced by the 2017-18 survey, which saw 42.5 percent of students total participating in athletics. However, the percentage of athletes competing in multiple sports in 2021-22 was higher than in 2017-18, 44.3 percent to 42.8 percent.
For 2021-22, 46.5 percent of male athletes and 41.4 percent of female athletes played multiple sports. Class D again enjoyed the highest percentage of multi-sport athletes among this group, at 60.8 percent, followed by Class C (58.5), Class B (49.5) and Class A (36.7).
Similar results for overall sport participation and multi-sport participation relative to enrollment size were seen by further breaking down Class A into schools of fewer than 1,000 students, 1,000-1,500 students, 1,501-2,000 students and more than 2,000 students. For both sport participation as a whole and multi-sport participation specifically, the smallest Class A schools enjoyed the highest percentages, while percentages then decreased for every larger size group of schools. This has remained consistent over the last five years.
“The multi-sport participation survey again shows that student-athletes across the state continue to focus on participation in several sports and the benefits that come with that participation for their school teams. What the numbers don’t show is the behind-the-scenes benefits of multi-sport participation,” said MHSAA assistant director Cody Inglis, who has served as coordinator of the multi-sport task force. “So many student-athletes see great success on and off the field with their teams, teammates, friends and peers while also developing the lifelong lessons that sports done right provide. We continue to believe and know that student-athletes who are involved in multiple sports are more successful, benefit from the variety of sports and see huge long-term benefits.”
The MHSAA Task Force on Multi-Sport Participation also recommended measuring multi-sport participation in MHSAA member schools to recognize “achievers” – that is, schools that surpass the norm given their enrollment and other factors that affect school sports participation.
In Class A, Bay City Central (78.7) and Livonia Franklin (77.7) posted the highest percentages of multi-sport athletes in 2021-22, with Clinton Township Chippewa Valley (75.6) and Parma Western (75.4) also reaching 75 percent. In Class B, four schools achieved at least 80 percent multi-sport participation – Brooklyn Columbia Central (85.8), Detroit Southeastern (84.6), Warren Michigan Collegiate (84) and Durand (82.6).
Class C saw five schools with more than 80 percent of its athletes taking part in more than one sport: Brown City (95.7), Decatur (87.4), Niles Brandywine (85.6), Ishpeming Westwood (83.2) and Flint Beecher (80.4). Five Class D schools responded at higher than 90 percent multi-sport participation, with Coldwater Pansophia Academy and Kinross Maplewood Baptist both reporting 100 percent of their athletes played multiple sports. McBain Northern Michigan Christian (98.6), Ewen-Trout Creek (94.3) and Detroit Douglass (91.7) were the next highest on the Class D list.
A total of 10 schools have appeared among the top 10 percent in their respective classes for multi-sport participation three of the four years of the survey: Battle Creek Harper Creek, Detroit Cody, Gibraltar Carlson, Grand Rapids Northview, Hamtramck, New Baltimore Anchor Bay, Ovid-Elise, Warren Lincoln, Athens and Maplewood Baptist.
The full summary report on the Multi-Sport Participation Survey is available on the Multi-Sports Benefits page of the MHSAA Website.