New Rules, Reminders Promote Safety
August 6, 2015
By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
The first practices of the 2015-16 school year next week provide a valuable opportunity for reminders on the importance of athletes remaining refreshed during the hottest days of training – and also an opportunity to explain new Michigan High School Athletic Association rules in football aimed at further promoting safety during competition.
The first practices begin next week for approximately 110,000 student-athletes taking part in eight sports in which the MHSAA sponsors postseason tournaments. Football practice for more than 40,000 players can begin at MHSAA schools Monday, Aug. 10, followed by first practices for all other fall sports Aug. 12.
Each year, the MHSAA provides information to its member schools to help them prepare for hot weather practice and game conditions in the late summer and early fall. Those resources – including the MHSAA’s Model Policy for Managing Heat & Humidity– are available on the revamped MHSAA.com Health & Safety web page.
This also will be the second season for football practice changes made last fall to promote heat acclimatization and limit helmet-to-helmet contact. And earlier this week, 70 MHSAA high schools from across Michigan received training to take part in one of two sideline concussion testing pilot programs expected to benefit 20,000 student-athletes over multiple sports.
“There’s been a lot of attention focused on football regarding head safety, but the fact is all school sports need attention to the safety of student-athletes,” MHSAA Executive Director John E. “Jack” Roberts said. “We’re addressing all sports at all levels, practice and competition, to make sure our staff, who are interacting with the young people, know the best practices for safety in school sports. And we’re trying to communicate to the public that school sports really are safer than ever.”
The final weeks of July were another reminder of the importance of adjusting to hot weather as practices begin. The MHSAA Representative Council adopted in 2013 the Model Policy for Managing Heat & Humidity that, while not mandated for member schools, has been adopted by many at the local level. The plan directs schools to begin monitoring the heat index at the activity site once the air temperature reaches 80 degrees and provides recommendations when the heat index reaches certain points, including ceasing activities when it rises above 104 degrees.
The model policy is outlined in a number of places, including the publication Heat Ways, which is available for download from the MHSAA Website. Roberts reminded that the first days of formal practices in hot weather should be more for heat acclimatization than the conditioning of athletes, and that practices in such conditions need planning to become longer and more strenuous over a gradual progression of time. He added schools also must consider moving practices to different times of day, different locations, or change practice plans to include different activities depending on the conditions.
To assist in acclimatization, the football practice rule changes of 2014 allow for only helmets to be worn during the first two days, only shoulder pads to be added on the third and fourth days, and full pads to not be worn until the fifth day of team practice.
Practice in football must begin on Aug. 10 for all schools wishing to begin regular-season games the weekend of Aug. 27-29. Schools must have 12 days of preseason practice at all levels before their first game, and those 12 days of practice may not occur before 16 calendar days.
Practice sessions for all other sports begin Wednesday (Aug.12). In golf and tennis, competition may commence no earlier than after three separate days of team practice, and not before seven calendar days. The first day competition may take place in golf and tennis is Aug. 19. In all other fall sports, contests can take place after seven days of practice for the team and not before nine calendar days. The first day competition may take place in cross country, tennis, soccer, swimming and diving, and volleyball is Aug. 21.
This fall, two football dates precede Labor Day, and a number of MHSAA schools will play their first varsity games on Thursday, Aug. 27. In Week 1, 123 varsity games will be played on Thursday, 176 contests will be played on Friday, and 14 games will be played on Saturday.
Continuing the focus on player safety, additional rules changes were made in football for 2015 that again focus on minimizing injury risk:
- The definition of unnecessary roughness was expanded to include excessive contact with an opponent, including a defenseless player, which incites roughness. A defenseless player can be considered one no longer involved in a play, a runner whose progress has been stopped, a player focused on receiving a kick or a receiver who has given up on an errant pass, or a player already on the ground. Unnecessary and excessive contact can include blindside blocks and players leaving their feet to contact an airborne receiver attempting to secure the ball.
- The grabbing of a quarterback’s facemask by a defensive player, if it does not including the twisting, pulling or turning of the facemask, will be ruled incidental and result in a five-yard penalty instead of a roughing-the-passer penalty and automatic first down.
- A 2014 rule change stated that the kicking team must have at least four players on each side of the kicker when ready-for-play is signaled; a change this season states four players must be lined up on each side of the kicker when the ball is kicked. That fourth player may shift after ready-for-play but before the kick to comply with this formation rule, but may not go in motion more than five yards behind the ball. If the shifting player travels more than five yards behind the ball, it is a dead-ball foul for encroachment.
A few notable changes will go into effect for other fall sports:
- In cross country, the loosening on what runners are allowed to wear during competition continued after a ban on jewelry was lifted in 2014. Runners also now may wear sunglasses, and previous restrictions have been eliminated for specific styles of head gear – ski bands, head bands, stocking caps and hoods attached to other clothing. Previously, those head gear had to meet criteria including color and size of brand logos displayed.
- In swimming and diving, the ban on wearing jewelry has been lifted. The National Federation of State High School Associations deemed the ban unnecessary because there is little risk of injury to the competitor or opponents.
The 2015 Fall campaign culminates with postseason tournaments beginning with the Upper Peninsula Girls Tennis Finals the week of Sept. 28, and wraps up with the 11-Player Football Playoff Finals on Nov. 27 and 28. Here is a complete list of fall tournament dates:
U.P. Finals – Oct. 24
L.P. Regionals – Oct. 30 or 31
L.P. Finals – Nov. 7
Selection Sunday – Oct. 25
Pre-Districts – Oct. 30 or Oct. 31
District Finals – Nov. 6 or 7
Regional Finals – Nov. 13 or 14
Semifinals – Nov. 21
Finals – Nov. 27-28
Selection Sunday – Oct. 25
Regional Semifinals – Oct. 30 or Oct. 31
Regional Finals – Nov. 6 or 7
Semifinals – Nov. 14
Finals – Nov. 20 or 21
L.P. Girls Golf:
Regionals – Oct. 7 or 8 or 9 or 10
Finals – Oct. 16-17
Boys L.P. Districts – Oct. 19-24
Boys L.P. Regionals – Oct. 27-31
Boys L.P. Semifinals – Nov. 4
Boys L.P. Finals – Nov. 7
L.P. Girls Swimming & Diving:
Diving Regionals – Nov. 12
Swimming/Diving Finals – Nov. 20-21
U.P. Girls Finals – Sept. 30-Oct. 3
L.P. Boys Regionals – Oct. 8 or 9 or 10
L.P. Finals – Oct. 16-17
Districts – Nov. 2-4 & 5, 6 or 7
Regionals – Nov. 10 & 12
Quarterfinals – Nov. 17
Semifinals – Nov. 19-20
Finals – Nov. 21
The MHSAA is a private, not-for-profit corporation of voluntary membership by more than 1,400 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.
Rep Council Adjusts, Expands Out-of-State Competition Opportunities at Spring Meeting
By Geoff Kimmerly
MHSAA.com senior editor
May 12, 2023
Substantial changes to the rules governing out-of-state competition by Michigan High School Athletic Association member schools were among the most notable actions taken by the MHSAA’s Representative Council during its annual Spring Meeting, May 6-7 in Gaylord.
The Spring Meeting of the 19-member legislative body of the Association’s more than 1,500 member schools is generally the busiest of its sessions each year. The Council considered 31 committee proposals and dealt with a variety of eligibility rule, postseason tournament and operational issues.
The most far-reaching changes approved by the Council shifts the MHSAA rules regarding competitions against out-of-state opponents. Moving forward, MHSAA member schools may continue to compete against teams from Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Ontario – but also may compete against teams from elsewhere in the United States as long as those competitions take place in Michigan, one of those five contiguous states or Ontario. The Council voted to remove the allowance for MHSAA member schools to travel up to 300 miles to play an out-of-state opponent; MHSAA member schools still can compete against those opponents, but competition must take place in Michigan or one of the states/province listed above. Any event including schools from outside of Michigan or those contiguous states/province must receive approval by the MHSAA and each state high school association with a team involved in order for MHSAA member schools to be allowed to participate.
In an effort to strengthen the undue influence regulation, the Council approved a change making it a violation for coaches or their representatives to connect via social media with students from another high school or with a student prior to ninth grade who has not yet enrolled in a high school or participated in an athletic practice or competition as a high school student. Violations of this rule include connecting via social media with a “follow,” “friend request” or “direct message” to a student. The Council also expanded the portion of the undue influence regulation that doesn’t allow coaches and representatives to visit prospective athletes and their families at the families’ homes to not allow them to visit athletes and families at “other locations” as well.
The Council approved an expansion in the use of video to determine penalties when there is a bench-clearing situation or other incident where team members enter the area of competition during an altercation. MHSAA staff, based on video evidence, will be allowed to assess additional penalties including ejections and suspensions to team members, coaches and other staff who enter those areas to participate or engage in such an altercation.
Concerning specific sports, changes to three stand out from several adopted by the Council.
The Council approved three Bowling Committee recommendations affecting postseason competition in that sport. The first reorganizes Regional competition to eight sites, with each qualifying the top two teams and top seven singles for both girls and boys competitions to the Finals (instead of the previous six sites qualifying three teams and 10 singles for both girls and boys). The Council also approved a proposal to change the Team Finals match play to a head-to-head, best-of-five Baker game format. Finally, the Council approved a proposal to adopt the Phantom II oil pattern for all MHSAA Tournament competitions.
In girls volleyball, the Council approved a Volleyball Committee recommendation to begin seeding the top two teams in each District beginning with the 2024-25 school year. As is done currently with girls and boys basketball and girls and boys soccer, the top-two seeded teams in each District will be placed on opposite sides of the bracket, guaranteeing they will not play each other before the District Final. Seeding will be determined using the Michigan Power Rating (MPR) formula which takes into account regular-season success and strength of schedule. MPR is used to seed Districts in the same way in basketball and soccer.
In wrestling, the Council approved a Wrestling Committee recommendation adding two regular-season dual meets to the allowed number of wrestling contest dates. These must be dual meets and may not be converted into three-team (tri) or four-team (quad) meets. Teams and individuals now will be allowed 16 days of competition with no more than eight of those days allowed for tournament-type events where a wrestler competes more than twice.
Here is a summary of other notable actions taken by the Representative Council at the Spring Meeting, which will take effect during the 2023-24 school year unless noted:
• The Council approved a classification-related change for the MHSAA’s smallest member schools, allowing them to request participation of eighth and seventh-grade students, based on the high school’s enrollment. Schools with fewer than 125 students (instead of the previous 100) may request an MHSAA Executive Committee waiver to use eighth-grade students in all sports except football, ice hockey and wrestling. Schools with fewer than 75 students (instead of the previous 50) may make the same request to use seventh and eighth-grade students in all sports except those three. Schools requesting a waiver must show cause and rationale for those students’ participation.
• The Council approved a Sports Medicine Advisory Committee proposal requiring middle school head coaches to have valid, current CPR certification. Similar to the high school requirements for head coaches at all levels, this addition at the middle school level will ensure each team has at least one coach at each level present who is CPR-certified. This requirement will take effect with the 2024-25 school year, and schools will attest to its completion by the established deadline for each season.
• The Council approved an Officials Review Committee recommendation adjusting the minimum requirements for postseason consideration in wrestling, competitive cheer and soccer. In wrestling, officials must receive 75 coaches ratings (instead of the previous 100) to be considered for working a postseason meet. In girls competitive cheer, judges must be members in good standing of a Local Approved Association. In soccer, officials must work a minimum of five regular-season games (down from the previous 10) to be considered for the postseason.
• The Council also approved a Committee recommendation increasing the amount paid when an official arrives on site prior to a competition before receiving notice that competition has been canceled due to an “act of God” including weather that results in unplayable conditions. In these situations, officials will receive one-half of the contract fee (instead of the previous one-third).
• For baseball, the Council approved a change to when trophies will be awarded to Regional champions. Those trophies will be presented to both Regional champions after the Quarterfinal is concluded, as Regional Finals and the ensuing Quarterfinal are played at the same site on the same day and both Quarterfinal participants will have earned a Regional championship earlier that day.
• In addition to the Regional and Finals changes for bowling explained above, the Council also approved a Bowling Committee proposal seeking common start dates for practice and competition for Lower and Upper Peninsula teams. For the 2023-24 season, bowling teams in both peninsulas will begin practice Nov. 9 and competition Nov. 25. Previously, Upper Peninsula teams were allowed to begin their seasons slightly earlier – this past season four days sooner for practice and a week earlier for competition than their Lower Peninsula counterparts.
• The Council also approved a start date change in girls competitive cheer, proposed by the Competitive Cheer Committee, moving the practice start date to the second Monday before Thanksgiving. This shortens the season by one week, but also allows a more comfortable gap between the fall sideline cheer and winter competitive cheer seasons. This change will take effect with the 2024-25 school year.
• Also in cheer, the Council approved a Committee recommendation that adjusts the restricted period at the end of competitive cheer season to the Monday following Memorial Day, which will allow athletes to try out for sideline cheerleading for the upcoming season after the completion of the majority of spring-sport competitions.
• Additionally, the Council approved an exception to the MHSAA’s all-star regulation that will allow for individual competitive cheer and sideline cheer athletes to participate in an event that is “all-star” in name only as long as the selection components of the event comply with MHSAA regulations.
• In cross country and track & field, the Council approved Cross Country/Track & Field Committee recommendations to eliminate a pair of uniform-related rules adaptations designating the types of head attire that previously could be worn during cross country races and body adornments that previously were allowed to be worn during competitions in both sports.
• In golf, the Council approved a Golf Committee recommendation to require athletes to participate in at least four competitions for the high school team prior to representing that athlete’s school team in an MHSAA postseason golf competition. Those four regular-season competitions may be 9 or 18-hold events.
• A Council action in gymnastics will better define how athletes are assigned a division for the individual portion of the MHSAA Finals. Athletes are assigned either Division 1 or Division 2 based on past experience and skill level – Division 1 for those with the most – and the Council approved the allowance of the Xcel levels of Sapphire and Diamond to be part of the determining criteria. Athletes who have previously competed in a non-school event at either of these levels would be required to compete in the Division 1 level for MHSAA postseason competition.
• In tennis, the Council approved a Tennis Committee recommendation allowing in the Lower Peninsula for a No. 1 doubles pair from a non-qualifying team to advance from Regional to Finals competition if that pair finishes first or second at the Regional and the No. 1 singles player from that team also has qualified for the Finals individually by finishing first or second in Regional play. (Upper Peninsula tennis does not play a Regional.)
• The Council approved a Swimming & Diving Committee recommendation restructuring how qualifying times for Finals are determined in an effort to provide more entries in swimming events at the championship level. Moving forward, qualifying times will be determined based on the past five years of MHSAA race data, but also will account for past numbers of qualifiers in each swim race; qualifying times will be shifted to allow for more athletes to advance to the Finals in events where fields have not been full over the previous five seasons.
• The second swimming & diving recommendation approved by the Council assigned specific breaks during Finals competitions. During Friday preliminaries (swam in the Lower Peninsula only), 10-minute breaks will be placed between the 200-yard medley relay and 200 freestyle races, and between the 200 freestyle relay and 100 backstroke, with a 15-minute break between the 50 freestyle and 100 butterfly. The same 10-minute breaks will be mandated for Saturday Finals competitions, with a 15-minute break during Finals coming between the conclusion of diving and 100 butterfly races.
• For girls volleyball, the Council also approved a Volleyball Committee recommendation to permit the Michigan Interscholastic Volleyball Coaches Association (MIVCA) a 3-minute on-court presentation during the MHSAA Finals to recognize that season’s Miss Volleyball Award winner. The presentation will take place between the second and third sets of the Division 1 championship match.
Junior High/Middle School
• The Council voted to make permanent cross country and track & field competitions that have been conducted at a Regional level as part of a pilot program during the 2021-22 and 2022-23 school years. The Council also voted to expand the number of sites per Junior High/Middle School Regional to allow for large-school (Divisions 1 and 2) and small-school (Divisions 3 and 4) meets for each of the eight Zones. Each participating junior high and middle school will be classified for its Regional meet based on the enrollment of the high school with which the junior high/middle school is connected.
The Council also reviewed reports on membership, with 750 senior high schools and 767 junior high/middle schools in 2022-22 plus 63 elementary schools with 6th-grader participation; cooperative programs, with 376 high school programs for 692 teams during 2023-23; eligibility advancement applications, which totaled three; the use of Educational Transfer Forms, of which there were 127; school violations, attendance at athletic director in-service workshops and Coaches Advancement Program sessions; officials’ registrations, rules meetings attendance and officials reports submitted for the past three sports seasons. The Association’s $13.3 million budget for the 2023-24 school year also was approved.
The Representative Council is the 19-member legislative body of the MHSAA. All but five 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 1.3 million spectators each year.