Rep Council Wrap-Up: Fall 2018

December 6, 2018

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

The adoption of alterations to the Michigan High School Athletic Association fall calendar and approval of Calvin College as the continued host site for the Girls Basketball Finals were among actions taken by the MHSAA’s Representative Council during its Fall Meeting on Nov. 30 in East Lansing.

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 winter and spring. However, with multiple topics requiring immediate attention this fall, the Council approved calendar and basketball recommendations in advance of circumstances that will affect both during the 2019-20 school year and beyond.

The calendar change will keep the length of fall seasons consistent in boys soccer, cross country, tennis and golf in years when Thanksgiving is “late” during the fourth full week of November. The Council approved a recommendation allowing those four sports in “short years” – for example, 2019 – to begin practice the 16th Monday before Thanksgiving (Monday, Aug. 12, 2019) and begin competition after three days of practice over four calendar days (Friday, Aug. 16, 2019). Because the start of practice in those sports annually is tied to Thanksgiving, but the Finals are not, those four fall sports faced shorter seasons by one week in 2019, 2024, 2025, etc.

The Council also approved continuing to conduct the Girls Basketball Semifinals and Finals for 2019-20 and 2020-21 at Van Noord Arena at Calvin College. The Girls Finals moved to Van Noord Arena in 2017-18 because of the unavailability of Michigan State University’s Breslin Center due to a conflict with the NCAA Division I Women’s Basketball Tournament and an opportunity for Michigan State’s women’s team to host first and second-round games had it qualified and earned a top-16 overall seed. The same conflict is possible during Girls Basketball Finals traditional weekend in 2020, 2021, 2022 and 2023. Additionally, the Council discussed solutions for the 2023-24 and 2024-25 seasons, when Breslin may not be available during the traditional weekend of the MHSAA Boys Basketball Finals. The boys season for 2018-19 switched calendars with the girls season to avoid the same NCAA Tournament conflict; Breslin is the only building statewide that has made itself available for the Boys Basketball Finals and is large enough to accommodate the event. Only one other location offered to host the Girls Basketball Finals for 2019-20 and 2020-21.

Also affecting competition for 2019-20, the Council approved the continuation of an experiment begun in 2016-17 that allows cooperative programs in a series of sports – regardless of the student enrollment maximum – for two or more schools of the same public school district (and with the same governing board). Districts may form these co-ops in baseball, bowling, girls competitive cheer, cross country, golf, soccer, girls softball, tennis and wrestling. The experiment was designed to provide opportunities to participate in urban school districts where schools previously did not have enough athletes for team sponsorship on their own. Districts must show a demonstrated history of inadequate numbers of participants to be approved. These programs require the same two-year renewal process as other cooperative programs.

The Council also approved a change effective in spring 2020 that will allow spring sports teams, that have received MHSAA approval to travel out of state, to practice jointly and/or scrimmage (up to the season’s limit of four allowed scrimmages) with and against other approved MHSAA member schools. The Council reviewed survey data from the fall Update meetings and an online survey of membership that showed significant support for the allowance.

A number of other discussions focused on matters that could come before the Council for action at its Winter Meeting in March or Spring Meeting in May. In preparation for the Football Committee meeting in January, the Council discussed survey results concerning regular-season scheduling and the MHSAA Tournament for both 11 and 8-player football. The Council also reviewed possible benefits of adjusting MHSAA officials registration to include National Association of Sports Officials (NASO) membership and also other options for changing MHSAA registration prices to encourage more multi-sport officials. These officiating concepts will be presented to the MHSAA Audit and Finance Committee in February in advance of possible Council action in March or May.

The Council discussed creating an MHSAA Sports Medicine Advisory Committee to provide input and guidance on such topics, and also heard feedback received during Update meetings on the MHSAA’s possible role in mental health initiatives. The Council heard an update on the communication and notice that has taken place regarding the new Sport-Specific Transfer Rule that goes into effect for 2019-20 based on the sports a student participated in during 2018-19. The Council also continued its 2018 March and May discussions concerning the boarding school student exception to the transfer rule, with staff reporting on a recent meeting with those boarding schools administrators.

Additionally, the Council heard an update on the “Presenting Sponsor” program whereby the MHSAA has provided support to junior high/middle school competitions in cross country and track & field over the last two years; in 2018-19, the MHSAA also is serving as presenting sponsor at events for junior high/middle school volleyball and basketball. Similarly, the MHSAA will serve this winter as a presenting sponsor of a Special Olympics Unified basketball invitational in February at Novi High School and at the Michigan High School Powerlifting Association Finals in March at Ionia High School. Both high school events will include fields filled with MHSAA member high schools and provide the Association with further opportunities to provide financial and messaging support for these student-focused activities.

The Fall Meeting saw the addition of Nicole Carter, principal of Novi High School, to the 19-person Council. She was appointed to a two-year term. Carter fills the position formerly held by Pat Watson, principal of West Bloomfield High School, whose term ended. Also, Vicky Groat, principal and athletic director at Battle Creek St. Philip High School, was reappointed for a second two-year term.

The Council reelected Scott Grimes, assistant superintendent of human services for Grand Haven Area Public Schools, as its president; Saginaw Heritage athletic director Pete Ryan as 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.

2023 Forsythe Award Celebrates Leinaar's 40 Years Dedicated to School Sports

By Geoff Kimmerly senior editor

March 8, 2023

Few people in Michigan have had a longer-lasting influence on the rules and policies of educational athletics than Frankfort’s Karen Leinaar, who has served in several roles locally, statewide and nationally over more than 40 years contributing to the school sports community.

Thank you, Bill Baker.

The longtime teacher, coach, principal and superintendent during a career that stretched across multiple schools – including Leinaar’s growing up, Delton Kellogg – made an impression on the standout multi-sport athlete before she graduated from high school in 1977. Baker’s philosophy and work led Leinaar to study education at Michigan State University and then brought her back as Delton’s athletic director to begin four decades of making the same impact on children in her hometown and eventually in hometowns all over Michigan and beyond.

Baker died in 2009, but not before continuing to mentor Leinaar through many good times and tough ones.

“The man had two daughters that I grew up with, his wife was a teacher, and he demonstrated to all of us – he never missed an event – that we were important to him. That even though we weren’t his kids, we were his kids and athletics was a way to help kids become better people – and for some kids it was the only thing that they had positive in their life,” Leinaar said. “And he made it known just to that individual kid how important their participation was and their involvement, and how that helped them become the person that they were.

“That to me was such an example of how to help people be good people, that I just took that role on.”

It’s a role in which she continues to serve. Leinaar began her career as an athletic administrator in 1982, and as the interim athletic director currently at Frankfort High School is serving her fifth district in that position. Since June 2019, she also has served as executive director of the Michigan Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association (MIAAA), the professional organization for school sports administrators in the state with a membership of nearly 700.

Leinaar accepts the MHSAA's Women In Sports Leadership Award in 1998. To recognize that longtime and continuing impact, Leinaar has been named the 2023 honoree for the Michigan High School Athletic Association’s Charles E. Forsythe Award.

The annual award is in its 46th year and named after former MHSAA Executive Director Charles E. Forsythe, the Association's first full-time and longest-serving chief executive. Forsythe Award recipients are selected each year by the MHSAA Representative Council, based on an individual's outstanding contributions to the interscholastic athletics community.

Leinaar also served 22 years on the MHSAA’s Representative Council and a four-year term from 2009-13 on the Board of Directors for the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS), and just last week was named to the 2023 class of the National Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association (NIAAA) Hall of Fame.

“It is impossible even to estimate the number of students, coaches, administrators and others who have been affected by the work Karen Leinaar has done to make school sports the best they can be – not only in her communities, but across Michigan and throughout the country,” MHSAA Executive Director Mark Uyl said. “There are few who have equaled her dedication and her support and promotion of the ideals of school-based sports. She has always placed an emphasis on being in the room, on the field or at the arena, actively participating in her leadership roles, and our programs are better for it.”

Leinaar first served as athletic director at Delton Kellogg for nearly 17 years, from March 1982 through October 1998. She spent three years at Gaylord, then 8½ at Benzie Central before taking over at Bear Lake in November 2010 and spending the next decade organizing athletic programs for students in grades 5-12 before retiring in January 2021. She came out of retirement to return to the athletic director’s chair this past fall as interim AD at Frankfort. She has completed nearly four years as MIAAA executive director, moving into that position after previously serving nine years as an assistant to the executive.

Leinaar began her service on the Representative Council in Fall 1999 and completed her last term as a statewide at-large representative at the Fall 2021 meeting.

She has been honored several times for her contributions. She received the MHSAA’s Women In Sports Leadership Award in 1998, a Citation from the NFHS in 2000, and she was named MIAAA Athletic Director of the Year in 2001. She received an MHSAA’s Allen W. Bush Award in 2014 – recognition given for work done generally behind the scenes and with little attention.

“This is the top of the mountain, per se. This one does mean so much,” Leinaar said of the Forsythe Award. “The names that are associated with this over the years, I never thought I’d be put in that group.”

Leinaar remains a continuous source of support at a multitude of MHSAA championship events, and during her time on Council was one of the most frequent representatives handing out trophies and medals to champions and runners-up at Finals events. She began while athletic director at Delton Kellogg hosting the MHSAA Volleyball Finals in Class B and Class C and continues to assist with those championships now played at Kellogg Arena in Battle Creek.

She also hosted Competitive Cheer Finals at Delton Kellogg in 1996 and 1997, Ski Finals while at Gaylord, and many more championship events across the Lower Peninsula. She continues to assist at the MHSAA’s Lower Peninsula Cross Country and Track & Field Finals.

After attending Delton Kellogg High School, Leinaar earned a bachelor’s degree in physical education, health and recreation, with a minor in driver education, from MSU in 1982. She completed a master’s in athletic administration from Western Michigan University in 1994.

Leinaar has been a member for 40 years of both the MIAAA and NIAAA, and has served as chairperson of the MIAAA Annual Conference and awards chairperson for both the state and national bodies. She’s also served as chairperson of the MIAAA’s Exemplary Athletic Program.

Past recipients of the Charles E. Forsythe Award 

1978 - Brick Fowler, Port Huron; Paul Smarks, Warren 
1979 - Earl Messner, Reed City; Howard Beatty, Saginaw 
1980 - Max Carey, Freesoil 
1981 - Steven Sluka, Grand Haven; Samuel Madden, Detroit
1982 - Ernest Buckholz, Mt. Clemens; T. Arthur Treloar, Petoskey
1983 - Leroy Dues, Detroit; Richard Maher, Sturgis 
1984 - William Hart, Marquette; Donald Stamats, Caro
1985 - John Cotton, Farmington; Robert James, Warren 
1986 - William Robinson, Detroit; Irving Soderland, Norway 
1987 - Jack Streidl, Plainwell; Wayne Hellenga, Decatur 
1988 - Jack Johnson, Dearborn; Alan Williams, North Adams
1989 - Walter Bazylewicz, Berkley; Dennis Kiley, Jackson 
1990 - Webster Morrison, Pickford; Herbert Quade, Benton Harbor 
1991 - Clifford Buckmaster, Petoskey; Donald Domke, Northville 
1992 - William Maskill, Kalamazoo; Thomas G. McShannock, Muskegon 
1993 - Roy A. Allen Jr., Detroit; John Duncan, Cedarville 
1994 - Kermit Ambrose, Royal Oak 
1995 - Bob Perry, Lowell 
1996 - Charles H. Jones, Royal Oak 
1997 - Michael A. Foster, Richland; Robert G. Grimes, Battle Creek 
1998 - Lofton C. Greene, River Rouge; Joseph J. Todey, Essexville 
1999 - Bernie Larson, Battle Creek 
2000 - Blake Hagman, Kalamazoo; Jerry Cvengros, Escanaba 
2001 - Norm Johnson, Bangor; George Lovich, Canton 
2002 - John Fundukian, Novi 
2003 - Ken Semelsberger, Port Huron
2004 - Marco Marcet, Frankenmuth
2005 - Jim Feldkamp, Troy
2006 - Dan McShannock, Midland; Dail Prucka, Monroe
2007 - Keith Eldred, Williamston; Tom Hickman, Spring Lake
2008 - Jamie Gent, Haslett; William Newkirk, Sanford Meridian
2009 - Paul Ellinger, Cheboygan
2010 - Rudy Godefroidt, Hemlock; Mike Boyd, Waterford
2011 - Eric C. Federico, Trenton
2012 - Bill Mick, Midland
2013 - Jim Gilmore, Tecumseh; Dave Hutton, Grandville
2014 - Dan Flynn, Escanaba

2015 - Hugh Matson, Saginaw
2016 - Gary Hice, Petoskey; Gina Mazzolini, Lansing
2017 - Chuck Nurek, Rochester Hills
2018 - Gary Ellis, Allegan
2019 - Jim Derocher, Negaunee; Fredrick J. Smith, Stevensville
2020 - Michael Garvey, Lawton
2021 - Leroy Hackley Jr., Byron Center; Patti Tibaldi, Traverse City
2022 - Bruce Horsch, Houghton

PHOTOS (Top) Karen Leinaar, left, awards the 2022 Division 4 volleyball finalist trophy to Indian River Inland Lakes coach Nicole Moore. (Middle) Leinaar accepts the MHSAA's Women In Sports Leadership Award in 1998.