By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
The Representative Council of the Michigan High School Athletic Association today approved the start of competition in girls volleyball, boys soccer and girls swimming & diving in regions of Michigan authorized for that activity by Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s executive orders, with competition in those sports pending in regions where those activities are not yet allowed as part of preventing spread of COVID-19.
Schools in the northern Lower Peninsula and Upper Peninsula – designated as Regions 6 and 8, respectively, by executive order – are allowed to begin competition Aug. 21, as originally scheduled. Schools in all other Regions (1-5, and 7) may continue outdoor practice, pending further executive orders allowing for the opening of indoor facilities and physical distancing while competing in those areas.
Teams began outdoor practice in volleyball, soccer, swimming & diving, cross country, golf and tennis on Aug. 12. Lower Peninsula girls golf and boys tennis, and Upper Peninsula girls tennis began competition Aug. 19, with cross country competition beginning Aug. 21. Football practice began Aug. 10, and on Aug. 14 the Representative Council voted to postpone the Fall 2020 football season to Spring 2021, also due to COVID-19 concerns.
MHSAA staff was authorized by executive order to create all guidance for a return of school sports, and over the last eight weeks has worked to fulfill this mandate while complying with all of Governor Whitmer’s executive orders. The Council was prepared today to approve competition in volleyball, soccer and swimming & diving for all schools in all regions, but was unable to do so because of questions remaining on which activities are still not allowed.
“Our Council has made clear it is ready to offer students these opportunities, pending approval from Governor Whitmer that we may do so,” MHSAA Executive Director Mark Uyl said. “We have been told that within a week, future guidance will address athletic issues that exist in current executive orders. We are awaiting that guidance.
“The MHSAA and Representative Council are committed to following all current and future Executive Orders and safety precautions. However, we need more answers before we can give all of our member schools the go-ahead to play each other again, and the majority of our schools are in regions that are not yet allowed to take part in volleyball, soccer and swim.”
For attendance purposes, schools in Regions 6 and 8 may have for indoor volleyball a total of 250 people or 25 percent of a facility’s capacity, whichever is smallest. Indoor pools in Regions 6 and 8 are limited to 25 percent of established bather capacity for that pool. Outdoor competition in Regions 6 and 8 may have 500 people or 25 percent of capacity, whichever is smallest. For all three sports, the total numbers of people allowed to be present include all participants, officials and school and game personnel, media and fans.
The Council also approved out-of-season coaching adjustments allowing football and spring sports coaches more contact with their athletes in advance of the 2021 season.
To provide additional offseason activity for sports that have had their full seasons canceled or moved, the Council approved 16 contact days for football and all spring sports to be used for voluntary practices among students from the same school only. Football may schedule their contact days from Aug. 24 through Oct 31. Spring sports – baseball, softball, girls soccer, track & field, girls and boys lacrosse, boys golf, Upper Peninsula girls golf, and Lower Peninsula girls tennis and Upper Peninsula boys tennis – may schedule their 16 contact days for voluntary practices from Sept. 8-Oct. 31, if the school permits and all safety protocols are followed.
Football and all spring sports then may conduct skill work with coaches and up to four players at a time beginning Nov. 1 until the first day of official practice this upcoming spring. Coaches also may work with an unlimited number of players on general conditioning during that time.
A calendar for the inclusion of football into Spring 2021 will be released later this fall, upon Council approval at a later meeting.
The MHSAA is a private, not-for-profit corporation of voluntary membership by more than 1,500 public and private senior high schools and junior high/middle schools which exists to develop common rules for athletic eligibility and competition. No government funds or tax dollars support the MHSAA, which was the first such association nationally to not accept membership dues or tournament entry fees from schools. Member schools which enforce these rules are permitted to participate in MHSAA tournaments, which attract more than 1.4 million spectators each year.
Elections were completed recently to fill positions on the Michigan High School Athletic Association’s legislative body, its Representative Council, with six members receiving re-election, another rejoining the Council after previously serving and two being selected for the first time – one of those two as part of a special election.
Five of the six re-elected members ran unopposed. Midland athletic director Eric Albright was re-elected to continue representing Class A and B schools in the northern section of the Lower Peninsula, Portage Northern athletic director Chris Riker was re-elected to continue representing Class A and B schools in the southwestern section of the Lower Peninsula, and Brighton athletic director John Thompson was re-elected to continue representing Class A and B schools in the southeastern section of the Lower Peninsula.
Calumet faculty member and past athletic director Sean Jacques was re-elected to continue representing the Class C and D schools in the Upper Peninsula. Vic Michaels, director of physical education and athletics for the Archdiocese of Detroit, was re-elected to continue representing private and parochial schools. Grand Haven superintendent Scott C. Grimes was re-elected for a statewide at-large position from an original pool of four candidates.
Bangor athletic director Fredrick J. Smith will be rejoining the Council after previously serving from 2005-17 while athletic director at Comstock, Buchanan and Benton Harbor. He was elected to represent junior high and middle schools. Harbor Springs athletic director Anna Rigby will join the Council for the first time and was elected to represent Class C and D schools in the northern section of the Lower Peninsula. All eight were elected to serve two-year terms.
Camden-Frontier superintendent Chris Adams also will be joining the Council for the first time. He was selected as part of a special election to serve a one-year term representing Class C and D schools in the southeastern section of the Lower Peninsula. He will finish the term of former Ottawa Lake Whiteford athletic director and coach Jason Mensing, who now serves at Class A Westland John Glenn.
The Representative Council is the 19-member legislative body of the MHSAA. All but five members are elected by member schools. Four members are appointed by the Council to facilitate representation of females and minorities, and the 19th position is occupied by the Superintendent of Public Instruction or designee. The Council meets three times annually, and these elections take effect with the Fall 2022 meeting. Five members of the Council convene monthly during the school year to form the MHSAA’s Executive Committee, which reviews appeals of Handbook regulations by member schools.
Additional elections took place to select representatives to the Upper Peninsula Athletic Committee. Lake Linden-Hubbell athletic director and varsity girls basketball coach Jack Kumpula was elected to represent Class D schools, and West Iron County principal, athletic director and varsity football coach Mike Berutti was elected to represent athletic coaches. Powers North Central principal David Florenski was selected in a special election to serve a one-year term representing Class D schools.
The MHSAA is a private, not-for-profit corporation of voluntary membership by more than 1,500 public and private senior high schools and junior high/middle schools which exists to develop common rules for athletic eligibility and competition. No government funds or tax dollars support the MHSAA, which was the first such association nationally to not accept membership dues or tournament entry fees from schools. Member schools which enforce these rules are permitted to participate in MHSAA tournaments, which attract more than 1.3 million spectators each year.