By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
For the fifth straight year, Michigan ranked seventh nationally in high school sports participation, according to statistics for the 2012-13 school year released recently by the National Federation of State High School Associations. That level of participation continued to best Michigan’s national ranking for total number of residents of high school age, which fell one spot to ninth nationally in 2012.
Michigan’s participation ranking was based on a number of 304,438, with 130,009 girls and 174,429 boys taking part, and included sports in which the Michigan High School Athletic Association does not conduct postseason tournaments. The totals count students once for each sport in which he or she participates, meaning students who are multiple-sport athletes are counted more than once.
Michigan girls participation remained seventh nationally for the second consecutive year, while the boys participation figure continued to rank sixth. According to the latest U.S. Census Bureau figures from 2012, Michigan ranks ninth in both females and males ages 14 through 17 after ranking eighth in both in 2011.
Eight sports – including seven played by boys – moved up in their respective rankings, while seven sports moved down their lists. Total, Michigan ranked ninth or higher nationally in participation in 26 of the 28 sports in which the MHSAA conducts a postseason tournament (not counting separately 8-player football).
Basketball and boys swimming and diving led the improvement among boys sports, both moving up two spots – boys basketball to fourth-most participants nationally and swimming and diving up to seventh. Improving one position in national rank were boys bowling to second, boys cross country to eighth, boys ice hockey to third, boys lacrosse to seventh and boys soccer to eighth. Only one boys sport moved down in national rank – wrestling from fifth to sixth-most participants. Baseball (seventh), 11-player football (fifth), 8-player football (14th), boys golf (sixth), boys skiing (fourth), boys tennis (fifth) and boys track and field (sixth) held constant with 2011-12 rankings.
Girls cross country also jumped up two spots on its national ranking list, from seventh to fifth in 2012-13. However, six girls sports moved down their respective lists: girls basketball from sixth to seventh, girls golf from fifth to sixth, girls lacrosse from 12th to 13th, girls soccer from eighth to ninth, girls swimming and diving also eighth to ninth and girls tennis from third to fourth. Girls bowling (fourth), competitive cheer (fifth), gymnastics (12th), girls skiing (fourth), softball (seventh), girls track and field (seventh) and volleyball (fourth) repeated their 2011-12 national rankings.
National participation in high school sports in 2012-13 set a new record for the 24th consecutive year with 7,713,577 students – an increase of 21,057 – taking part. Girls participation also set a record for the 24th straight year, increasing this time 15,190 participants to 3,222,723 total. Boys participation bounced back from year’s first decrease in two decades, increasing by 5,867 participants from 2011-12 for a total of 4,490,854 – the second-highest total on record for boys national participation.
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 approximately 1.6 million spectators each year.
With the first girls basketball games, wrestling matches and ski races joining the event schedule this week, an estimated 65,000 athletes will be competing across the 13 sports for which the Michigan High School Athletic Association sponsors postseason tournaments.
Girls basketball tipped off Monday, Dec. 4, and the first boys and girls wrestling meets may take place Wednesday, Dec. 6. The first girls and boys ski races may begin Saturday, Dec. 9, when they will join competition already underway in boys basketball, girls and boys bowling, girls competitive cheer, girls gymnastics, boys ice hockey, Upper Peninsula girls swimming & diving, and boys swimming & diving across both peninsulas.
The MHSAA winter schedule concludes this 2023-24 school year with the Girls Basketball Finals on March 23. This will be the first time since 2018-19 that the girls basketball tournament will finish the winter season, a switch made necessary by the start of the NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament March 22-23 and the possibility Michigan State University could host first-round games at the Breslin Center, where the MHSAA plays both its girls and boys basketball Semifinals and Finals.
Three more sports will incorporate changes this season related to MHSAA Tournament format or qualification.
For girls and boys bowling, Regionals will be conducted at eight sites – instead of the previous six – with each site qualifying to Finals its top two team finishers and the top seven singles for both girls and boys competitions. For the Team Bowling Finals, match play has been switched to a head-to-head, best-of-five Baker game format, whereas previously the format included regular games rolled by individual bowlers.
In girls gymnastics, an addition to criteria is expected to classify gymnasts more accurately as Division 1 (most skilled/experienced) or Division 2 for MHSAA Tournament individual competition. Athletes who have previously competed in a non-school event at either the Sapphire or Diamond Xcel levels would be required to compete at the Division 1 level for MHSAA postseason competition. These designations were added to other criteria used to determine an individual competitor’s division.
A change that led to much larger event fields at the Lower Peninsula Girls Swimming & Diving Finals this fall is expected to produce the same at the LP Boys Swimming & Diving Finals this winter. Beginning this season, qualifying times have been determined based on the past five years of MHSAA race data, but also accounting for past numbers of qualifiers in each swim race – which should, as with the girls, allow for more boys to advance to the Finals in events where fields have not been full over the previous five seasons.
Additionally, the Competitive Cheer Finals will return to its traditional Friday-Saturday schedule, March 1-2 at McGuirk Arena at Central Michigan University, with Division 1 on Friday and Divisions 2-4 on Saturday.
This regular season, wrestlers have two more opportunities to compete. Teams are allowed two more dual meets (between two teams only, not to be converted into three or four-team meets), bringing the total allowed days of competition to 16 with no more than eight of those allowed for tournament-type events where a wrestler competes more than twice.
At those tournament-type events, wrestlers may now compete in up to six matches on one day of competition (as opposed to the previous five matches per day) – but an athlete may not wrestle in more than 10 matches over two consecutive days.
An adjustment to the awarding of free throws in basketball is likely to be the most noticeable in-game change for any winter sport this season. One-and-one free throws have been eliminated, and fouls no longer will be totaled per half. Instead, fouls are totaled and reset every quarter, and two free throws are awarded with the fifth foul of each quarter.
The 2023-24 Winter campaign culminates with postseason tournaments, as the championship schedule begins with the Upper Peninsula Girls & Boys Swimming & Diving Finals on Feb. 17 and wraps up with the Girls Basketball Finals on March 23. Here is a complete list of winter tournament dates:
Districts – Feb. 26, 28, March 1
Regionals – March 5, 7
Quarterfinals – March 12
Semifinals – March 14-15
Finals – March 16
Districts – March 4, 6, 8
Regionals – March 11, 13
Quarterfinals – March 19
Semifinals – March 21-22
Finals – March 23
Regionals – Feb. 23-24
Finals – March 1-2
Districts – Feb. 16-17
Regionals – Feb. 24
Finals – March 1-2
Regionals – March 2
Finals – March 8-9
Regionals – Feb. 19-28
Quarterfinals – March 2
Semifinals – March 7-8
Finals – March 9
Regionals – Feb. 12-16
Finals – Feb. 26
Swimming & Diving
Upper Peninsula Girls/Boys Finals – Feb. 17
Lower Peninsula Boys Diving Regionals – Feb. 29
Lower Peninsula Boys Finals – March 8-9
Wrestling – Team
Districts – Feb. 7-8
Regionals – Feb. 14
Finals – Feb. 23-24
Wrestling – Individual
Districts – Feb. 10
Boys Regionals – Feb. 17
Girls Regionals – Feb. 18
Finals – March 1-2
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.