By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
Randy Allen was a face seen and a voice heard by thousands during the first two decades of his career in athletics, when he worked as a TV sports anchor and radio play-by-play personality.
But it’s fair to assume his son Dean has watched his dad at work more than anyone over the latter’s most recent 20-plus years serving high school athletic associations, including the last 13 as an assistant director at the MHSAA.
Dean Allen, now an assistant athletic director at Pontiac Notre Dame Prep, remembers many trophy presentations over the years and how his dad would step back and make sure the tournament manager or athletic director was the one handing the hardware to those who deserved the spotlight.
Randy Allen embraced a behind-the-scenes role after joining the high school association side in 1992. And as he retired from the MHSAA on Friday, it was no doubt the athletic directors, officials and coaches who worked with him behind the scenes over the last 13 years who most appreciated his many contributions to making his seasons run smoothly.
“The biggest smile you’d see on him was when the tournament was over and the kids were out there tackling each other, the excitement, the smiles on their faces when they get their medals and raise the trophy,” Dean Allen said. “For him, that’s most worth it. To see it run well, and when it’s over, seeing the kids and the community and parents and coaches, celebrating the successes they’ve had. Seeing the smiles on kids’ faces is really what it’s all about.”
Randy Allen’s name surely isn’t as recognizable to sports fans in Michigan as it was during the 1970s and 80s in Wisconsin.
That was by design.
Allen set that tone almost immediately at his first meeting as a member of the MHSAA staff – during the Michigan Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association annual summer retreat.
“I remember telling them how glad I was to be here, and how much I looked forward to serving the membership. I just felt that was our main focus here, was to serve schools,” Allen said. “I’ve kept that thought in mind day in and day out.”
Allen knew only a handful of Michiganders when he joined the MHSAA staff. But he knew the job – and was ready for the challenges of fulfilling an aspiration while gaining knowledge of his new home on the fly.
His roots in high school athletics already dug deep.
Allen officiated baseball and softball for 25 years and also some of both at the college level. He also worked as a TV sports anchor at multiple stations near Madison, Wis., for 15 years while radio broadcasting high school football, basketball, baseball and hockey games on three networks and University of Wisconsin hockey games during the era of legendary coach Bob Johnson.
Allen went on to work in various other media roles as a producer, director and station manager, and broadcasted and produced Wisconsin high school tournament games – which led in part to his joining the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association staff as communications director in 1992.
In 2000, Allen became a seven-state regional director for iHigh.com. But an opportunity at the MHSAA two years later allowed him to pursue a goal going back to his days at the WIAA.
“I had always hoped I would get a chance to manage a sport in a state association,” Allen said. “When I came here, I went to heaven. I got to manage sports, and they were sports I knew like the back of my hand.”
Allen joined the MHSAA staff as assistant director in charge of baseball, softball, hockey and team wrestling. But that was just a start; Allen later traded in baseball and team wrestling for golf and played a leading role in the addition of bowling, which he has directed since its inception.
Allen also coordinated the junior high/middle school and MHSAA awards committees and served as staff liaison to the MIAAA, among other duties.
“Randy has been a perfect fit for his major sport responsibilities here,” MHSAA executive director Jack Roberts said. “He is a very hard worker, and he is very well liked by the coaches, officials and administrators he has served so well.”
It was during a trip to visit potential Hockey Finals sites roughly a decade ago that Roberts first brought up to Allen the possibility of bowling becoming the next MHSAA tournament addition – and the question of who on staff could run it. Roberts asked if Allen had experience in the sport.
Allen had an uncle in the bowling business and had been rolling since he was 4. “Bowling has been in my DNA since I was (a child),” Allen said. “I speak their language.”
He directed the MHSAA’s first Bowling Finals in 2004. Participation in the sport has continued to grow to 6,700 students in 2012-13.
Bowling also played a big part in making Allen something of an ambassador for the MHSAA, in that he reached out to an entire group of sports people who had not been in MHSAA conversations before.
He played a similar key role in serving others who also often work under the radar, providing training to the athletic department secretaries and middle school athletic directors during MIAAA conferences. And his experience in multiple states allowed him to provide a valuable and varied perspective.
“He always was willing to talk to someone – answer an MHSAA rules or regulation question, provide a quick fix to a school/league issue, give an anecdote to make a bad day better with a smile,” said Bear Lake athletic director Karen Leinaar, who also serves on the MHSAA Representative Council and is assistant to the executive director of the MIAAA. “And he always was a welcoming voice on the phone. No question, no person was ever a bother. He always took time and provided some type of direction.”
He’ll continue to do so.
Allen will begin Monday as commissioner of the Capital Area Activities Conference, the 27-school league that includes most of the biggest in the Lansing and Jackson areas.
“My entire life has been school sports. Not college sports, not professional sports. School sports,” Allen said. “It was my passion, what I was comfortable with as an official; I coached a little bit, I played a little bit (and) as a broadcaster.”
PHOTO: Retired MHSAA assistant director Randy Allen (left), with official Dan Dicristofaro, managed his final Hockey Finals in 2013.
To provide for the convenience and safety of spectators attending the Michigan High School Athletic Association 11-Player Football Finals on Nov. 25 and 26 at Ford Field in Detroit, attendees are being advised of a variety of items related to transportation and security – including policies regarding parking, seating and types of bags allowed into the stadium.
Parking will be available in Ford Field facilities and lots to the east and north of the stadium and costs $8. A map identifying the designated Ford Field lots (4, 5 and 6) and parking deck can be found on the Football page under “Tracking the Tournament.” (There also are a number of privately-operated parking facilities close to Ford Field, but their pricing may differ.)
Fans also are advised that the consumption of alcohol is prohibited in Ford Field parking facilities and lots, and smoking – including use of electronic cigarettes and vaporizers – is prohibited inside the stadium. Tailgating, including the setting up and use of grilling equipment, also is not allowed.
Tickets are priced at $20 and allow a fan to see all four games in a single day. Tickets are available for purchase at the door (cash or credit accepted), from participating schools, or online from Ford Field via Ticketmaster – links to order tickets both days also are on the MHSAA Website football page. Spectators leaving the stadium will be required to purchase another ticket for re-entry. Infants able to be held in arms will be admitted without charge for this event. There will not be a public Will Call window.
Spectators may enter Ford Field at Gates A & B. Upon arrival in the building, fans will find their designated seating areas on the South side of the field if their team is the designated home team for their contest and on the North side for the designated visiting team. Home teams this weekend are Belleville, Warren De La Salle Collegiate, Mason, Harper Woods, Corunna, Almont, Jackson Lumen Christi and Ottawa Lake Whiteford. Brightly-lit video boards above the seating areas will display the names of the participating teams each day, and fans should sit on the side of the stadium where they see their school’s name. For general fans, the entire lower bowl of Ford Field will be open for the event.
Security measures also will be in place to help assure spectator safety. Fans will be subject to metal detector screening, and Ford Field personnel reserve the right to request patrons open their coats, bags and other item-carrying vessels for visual inspection and deny entrance to individuals who do not cooperate. Spectators should remove cell phones, cameras, keys and other large metal objects before passing through the metal detectors.
Items which fans will be prohibited from bringing into the building include, but are not limited to, the following:
* Purses larger than a clutch bag, coolers, briefcases, backpacks, book bags, diaper bags, fanny packs, cinch bags, grocery & paper bags; duffle bags, computer bags or luggage of any kind.
* Aerosol cans (hairspray, mace, pepper spray, etc.)
* Animals (except service animals to aid guests with disabilities)
* Balloons (air or helium)
* Balls (beach balls, footballs, etc.)
* Banners or large flags
* Cameras with lenses longer than five inches or any detachable lens. Selfie Sticks also are prohibited.
* Chairs including folding chairs or stools
* Decals, stickers, confetti or glitter
* Drones and/or remote-controlled aircraft
* Electronic equipment including laptop computers, video recorders (hand-held video cameras are allowed), tripods and wearable video cameras including Go Pros.
* Food, beverages – including water – or liquids (cans, bottles, boxes, flasks, etc.)
* Illegal substances
* Knives, pocketknives, box cutters, scissors, etc.
* Laser pointers
* Marijuana including medically prescribed electronic accessories or paraphernalia associated with marijuana or illegal narcotics use.
* Markers (permanent) and/or paint
* Noisemaking devices (bells, horns, kazoos, whistles, etc.)
* Objects that can be used as missiles or projectiles (sticks, poles, bats, clubs, Frisbees, etc.)
* Strollers and infant car seats or carriers
* Umbrellas (large size)
* Wrapped gifts
The following items may be permitted after inspection:
* Bags that are clear plastic, vinyl or PVC and do not exceed 12 inches by 6 inches by 12 inches, or a one-gallon clear plastic freezer bag (Ziploc or similar). An exception will be made for medically necessary items after proper inspection at the Gate.
* Infant items in a clear bag (bottles and formula) only if accompanied by a child
* Binoculars and binoculars cases not exceeding 4½ inches by 6½ inches may be brought in via one of the clear plastic bag options.
* Cameras (lenses may not measure longer than five inches or be detachable, and no tripods or extension cords)
* Small radios (no larger than the size of a football and used with an earpiece)
* Small, compact umbrellas (must be placed securely under seat)
* Posters and signs without poles or sticks, or larger than what one person can hold.
* Tablets (iPads, Kindles, etc.)
* Seat cushions not exceeding 15 inches by 15 inches. Seat cushions also must not contain arm rests, zippers, pockets, flaps or metal backs.
The complete list of prohibited items can be found on the Detroit Lions website. Prohibited items that are discovered during security inspections at stadium entrances must be returned to the owner's vehicle or discarded. Items will not be held for later pickup.
Fans are reminded that all image taking (still and video) may be only for personal, non-commercial use.
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.