By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
Seasons are underway for teams participating in 12 winter sports for which the Michigan High School Athletic Association sponsors postseason tournaments, with stronger penalties for excessive contact in ice hockey highlighting rules changes taking effect with the beginning of competition.
Eight sports including ice hockey began play during the final two weeks of November, with the remaining four sports beginning competition over the next 10 days – Lower Peninsula Boys Swimming and Diving on Dec. 6, Boys Basketball on December 8 and Boys and Girls Skiing on Dec. 13. Upper Peninsula Girls and Boys Bowling teams began competition on Nov. 29, and Lower Peninsula teams may begin Dec. 6.
Changes to ice hockey penalties resulting from opponents being forced into the boards continue a focus on improving safety by establishing different levels of severity based on the flagrance and violence of the offending act.
Any excessive contact – including checking, cross-checking, elbowing, charging or tripping – that causes an opponent to be thrown violently into the boards will receive a 5-minute major penalty; previously this boarding infraction resulted only in a 2-minute minor penalty unless the contact was flagrant. If the flagrant or violent check causes a player to crash headfirst into the boards, a 5-minute major will be assessed as well as either a 10-minute misconduct or game disqualification depending on the severity of the offending check. Players disqualified from ice hockey games are not allowed to play in the next two games as well.
A 5-minute major penalty also will be assessed to any player who pushes, charges, cross-checks or body-checks an opponent from behind in open ice. Previously, this excessive contact came with a 2-minute minor penalty and 10-minute misconduct.
A handful of notable rules changes also go into effect for girls and boys basketball:
Intentional fouls were redefined to include excessive contact with any opposing player – not just the shooter – while the ball is live or until an airborne shooter returns to the floor. All excessive contact committed by any player will be ruled intentional.
Also, additions to the definition of personal foul were added to eliminate excessive contact on ball handlers outside of the lane area. The following additions constitute a foul when committed against the ball handler/dribbler: placing two hands (fronts or backs of hands) on the player, placing an extended arm bar (forearm away from the body) on the player, placing and keeping a hand on the player, and contacting the player more than once with the same hand or alternating hands.
The rule for players releasing to the lane on a free throw attempt was changed to its previous version; a player occupying a marked lane space again may enter the lane on the release of the ball by the free throw shooter. Players behind the free throw line extended and 3-point arc behind the free throw line must wait until the free throw attempt touches the ring or backboard or has ended (touches the floor) before entering the lane. This was the rule prior to the 1994-95 season.
Players may wear arm sleeves, knee sleeves, lower leg sleeves and tights, but all sleeves and tights must be black, white, beige or the predominant color of the team’s uniform. All team members wearing sleeves or tights must wear the same color. Knee braces do not count as part of this uniform regulation.
A significant change for wrestling affects team tournaments stretching multiple days, including the MHSAA Finals, for which weigh-ins are conducted each day. An athlete must weigh in at the same weight both days in order to continue competing after the first day of the tournament. Previously, an athlete could compete at whatever weight he or she weighed in at on the first day and then the new weight, if different, on the second day. Beginning this season, that wrestler may not compete the subsequent days of the team event if he or she weighs in at a different weight after the first day.
The 2014-15 Winter campaign culminates with postseason tournaments beginning with the Upper Peninsula Girls and Boys Swimming & Diving Finals on Feb. 21, and wraps up with the Boys Basketball Finals on March 28. Here is a complete list of winter tournament dates:
Districts – March 9, 11 & 13
Regionals – March 16 & 18
Quarterfinals – March 24
Semifinals – March 26-27
Finals – March 28
Districts – March 2, 4 & 6
Regionals – March 10 & 12
Quarterfinals – March 17
Semifinals – March 19-20
Finals – March 21
Team Regionals – Feb. 27
Singles Regionals – Feb. 28
Team Finals – March 6
Singles Finals – March 7
Girls Competitive Cheer
Districts – Feb. 20-21
Regionals – Feb. 28
Finals: March 6-7
Regionals – March 7
Team Finals – March 13
Individual Finals – March 14
Pre-Regionals – March 2-6
Regional Finals – March 7
Quarterfinals – March 10-11
Semifinals – March 12-13
Finals – March 14
Regionals – Feb. 9-13
Finals – Feb. 23
Swimming & Diving
U.P. Girls & Boys Finals – Feb. 21
L.P. Boys Diving Regionals – March 5
L.P. Boys Finals – March 13-14
Team Districts – Feb. 11-12
Individual Districts – Feb. 14
Team Regionals – Feb. 18
Individual Regionals – Feb. 21
Team Quarterfinals – Feb. 27
Team Semifinals & Finals – Feb. 28
Individual Finals – March 5-7
The Representative Council of the Michigan High School Athletic Association began examining several topics during its Fall Meeting, Dec. 1 in East Lansing – including start and end dates of the winter calendar, possible new transfer rule exceptions and emerging sports – that will shape its work during the winter and spring meetings of this 2023-24 school year.
Generally, the Council takes only a few actions during its Fall Meeting, with topics often introduced for additional consideration and action during its meetings in March and May. The Council did take three actions this time as part of larger conversations expected to continue over the next six months.
The Council joined staff discussion on the start and end dates of winter seasons and the possibility of moving up both, which was among topics surveyed as part of the Update Meeting poll completed by administrators during the MHSAA’s annual presentations across the state this fall. Staff will prepare a recommendation for Council to review at a future meeting regarding the 2025-26 school year and beyond.
MHSAA staff also provided a variety of transfer rule issues encountered over the last year, and Council discussed the possibility of adding transfer rule exceptions related to military transfer families, fulltime school employee transfers and students returning from a sports academy or prep school and seeking immediate eligibility. The Council did adopt a change for multi-high school districts (with at least three high schools) that include both boundary and non-boundary schools that more clearly defined where students at those schools have immediate eligibility.
The Council also discussed possible new and emerging sports, including proposals for MHSAA sponsorship received by the water polo and field hockey governing bodies and an anticipated proposal to add boys volleyball to the MHSAA Tournament lineup.
Several more conversations regarded MHSAA postseasons:
- The Council reviewed the work of the Football Task Force and considered a staff recommendation to have the Football Committee in January discuss possibly capping enrollment of Division 8 11-player schools at 250 students to incentivize schools within that group to play 11-player instead of switching to 8-player.
- MHSAA staff have identified four areas requiring financial increases – MHSAA Tournament officials fees, host schools compensations, manager honorariums and team reimbursements for Finals participants – and the Council discussed the importance of including these when the MHSAA Audit & Finance Committee meets in February to begin the 2024-25 budgetary process.
- The Council also discussed recommendations from the MHSAA Sports Medicine Advisory Committee addressing possible requirements of emergency action plans and AEDs at MHSAA Tournament sites.
The Fall Meeting saw the appointment of Wyoming Godfrey-Lee Schools superintendent Arnetta Thompson and Freeland Middle School principal Jennifer Thunberg to two-year terms to the 19-person Council, the first terms for both. The Council also reelected Scott Grimes, superintendent for Grand Haven Area Public Schools, as its president; Brighton High School athletic director John Thompson as its vice president, and Vic Michaels, director of physical education and athletics for the Archdiocese of Detroit, as secretary-treasurer.
The Representative Council is the 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 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.