Rep Council Wrap-Up: Spring 2015

May 11, 2015

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

The Representative Council of the Michigan High School Athletic Association took a number of significant actions during its annual Spring Meeting, May 3-4, in Glen Arbor, highlighted by changes to out-of-season coaching rules, a call for a member vote on a Constitutional amendment affecting middle school and junior high athletics, and initiatives to promote participant health and safety.  

The Spring Meeting of the 19-member legislative body of the Association’s more than 1,400 member schools is generally the busiest of its three sessions each year. The Council considered 13 committee proposals and also dealt with a variety of eligibility rule, postseason tournament and operational issues.

For the past eight months, the MHSAA focused member schools’ attention on an overhaul of out-of-season coaching rules. While support was lacking for a radically different approach, consensus developed for several significant changes within the existing approach for expanding contact between school coaches and their students out-of-season during the school year.

Included in the changes are that coaches will be permitted to work with up to four players in all situations out-of-season during the school year; previously, coaches could work with three or four players, depending on the circumstance. Coaches also will be allowed out of season during the school year to provide coaching in non-school competition to up to four students from that coach’s school. Under this same set of out-of-season coaching rules during the school year, the Council permitted more contact among school coaches and students allowing for previously banned offseason practice rotations to occur. Voluntary workouts out-of-season that involve rotations from conditioning, open gyms, weight lifting and sport-specific skill work may occur so long as there is no more than one four-player station with sport skills being coached. 

Following up on more than a year of consideration by the MHSAA Junior High/Middle School Committee and a Junior High/Middle School Task Force created in December 2013, the Council also approved a request for a membership vote to amend the MHSAA Constitution to allow for school membership beginning at the 6th grade. The membership vote is expected to be conducted in late October; if membership approves the amendment, the Council will consider for which sports 6th-graders will be eligible to compete with and against 7th- and 8th- graders.

The MHSAA’s historical concern for health and safety has been intensified during the past six years of an eight-year campaign focused on “4 H’s” – Health Histories, Heads, Heat and Hearts – and the Council approved several initiatives which continue to improve the environment of school-based sports.

The Council authorized up to three pilot programs to be conducted by volunteer schools, aimed at assisting in decision-making regarding the removal of athletes from activity after possible concussion events as well as in reporting and record-keeping of those events.

The Council mandated that member schools report head injury events through a web-based reporting system the MHSAA is developing. The Council also approved the purchase of another level of insurance aimed at assuring that children of uninsured or underinsured families receive prompt and professional care for suspected head injuries. Both the reporting requirement and the insurance protection are for eligible athletes in all levels of all sports, grades 7 through 12, in both practices and competition.

The Council was briefed on an electronic system that could be used to track pre-participation physical examination forms while improving injury reporting and record-keeping; currently, the MHSAA provides paper forms to member schools at no charge. The Council also was updated on MHSAA plans to provide at no cost to every high school in Michigan the ANYONE CAN SAVE A LIFE – Emergency Action Planning Guide, and informed on the MHSAA’s support of the MI HEARTSafe School initiative of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, which on May 13 will recognize 128 schools and/or districts for cardiac emergency preparedness.

Here is a summary of other actions taken by the Representative Council at the Spring Meeting, which will take effect during the 2015-16 school year: 

Handbook/Administrative Matters

  • Participation was expanded by the Council for 9th- and 10th-grade transfer students with no history of high school athletic participation who gain immediate subvarsity eligibility through a waiver by the MHSAA Executive Committee. Students who are granted such a waiver may now participate in designated non-scoring subvarsity heats or non-scoring races of varsity individual contests in sports such as swimming and diving, cross country and track and field. Previous to this action, subvarsity eligibility was permitted in subvarsity team sports only or subvarsity-only meets in individual sports. The subvarsity definition also will apply to international students present in the U.S. on an F-1 Visa but not from an MHSAA-approved international student program. 

  • Athletes in ice hockey and boys and girls soccer must compete in four regular-season games against other MHSAA schools to be eligible to compete with their school teams in the MHSAA Tournament. This currently is a requirement in alpine skiing, and a waiver procedure similar to what is utilized in skiing will be developed for hockey and soccer as well.

  • Non-school sports activities coordinated or directed by administrators and parents were added to situations which trigger an athletic link and an extended period of ineligibility for transfer students if those students then enroll at new schools that have association with those administrators or parents. The Council expanded the athletic-related transfer rule which previously involved only non-school coaches and transferring students who do not make a residential change. 


  • The Council created a “life line” allowance for schools to form a cooperative agreement in excess of the 3,500-student enrollment cap in sports sponsored by fewer than 250 schools. A program may be approved by the Executive Committee for up to three years, if during the previous year, the school or the cooperative program in which the school was a part dropped the sport because of a demonstrated lack of participation. Sports sponsored by 250 or fewer schools during 2014-15 were gymnastics, ice hockey, boys and girls lacrosse, boys and girls alpine skiing and boys and girls swimming and diving. This three-year “life line” allowance is similar to the regulation which allows for a “startup” cooperative program to be created among schools whose combined enrollment exceeds 3,500 students but the schools involved did not sponsor the sport in the previous school year.

Sport Matters

  • For boys and girls basketball, the Council approved an MHSAA Basketball Committee recommendation to seek permission from the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) to allow teams to play up to two regular-season games made up of 18-minute halves instead of the current 8-minute quarters. If permission is granted by the NFHS, schools will be required to seek permission from the MHSAA prior to events and provide reports after 36-minute games are played.

  • In bowling, it was announced that Kegel is developing a bowling lane oil pattern for high school bowling called the “Allen Pattern,” named after former MHSAA Assistant Director Randy Allen, who administered the MHSAA bowling program from its inception during the 2003-04 school year until retirement in 2013. Michigan has the largest number of schools in the U.S. sponsoring interscholastic bowling. The Allen Pattern is being designed specifically for the high school level and will be utilized for the 2016 MHSAA Bowling Tournament.

  • In cross country, the MHSAA will appoint and administer a task force of coaches and athletic administrators to address unbalanced Lower Peninsula Cross Country Regionals – including some Regionals having more complete teams in competition than others because teams decide to not compete or cannot compete with a full lineup after Regional groups are drawn. The task force will present its findings to the Council in 2016.

  • For ice hockey, four-person officiating crews were approved for Quarterfinals. The MHSAA began using four-person crews for Semifinals and Finals in 2014.

  • In boys lacrosse, a “play in” game was approved for teams seeded 9-16 in each Regional. Play-in games will be played three days earlier than the traditional start of the MHSAA Tournament, with winners then playing teams seeded 5-8 at the traditional start of tournament play.

  • In wrestling, the Council approved a recommendation by the MHSAA Wrestling Committee that eliminates the second weigh-in at the MHSAA Team Finals. The Friday weigh-in before the start of Quarterfinals will be used for all three rounds of competition during Finals weekend.

The Council also reviewed reports on membership, with 754 senior high schools and 703 junior high/middle schools in 2014-15; eligibility advancement applications, which totaled four for the year; the use of Educational Transfer Forms, which held steady this year; 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 $10.4 million budget for the 2015-16 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 1,400 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.

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.