Rep Council Wrap-Up: Winter 2018

March 28, 2018

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

With a number of important topics filling the agenda for its Spring Meeting this May, the Representative Council of the Michigan High School Athletic Association prepared for a number of possible votes by receiving and requesting additional information during its annual Winter Meeting on March 23 in East Lansing.

The Winter Meeting frequently serves as an opportunity for the Council to discuss items expected to come up for action at its final meeting of the school year, scheduled for May 6-7. Since June of 2017, the MHSAA has been pushing several projects forward – with work on the transfer rule and junior high/middle school sports receiving the most emphasis.

Addressing the chronically troubling nature of transfers in school sports, the MHSAA has facilitated nine months of discussions with leagues and administrative groups across the state to develop a proposal that would make the transfer rule sport-specific – that is, a rule that bases current eligibility on the sports an athlete has participated in in the past. The proposed new rule would make transferring students ineligible at a new school in the sports they played the previous year at their old school. However, transfer students would be immediately eligible in any sport they didn’t participate in the previous school year. A list of exceptions, including a change of residence, would still allow for transferring students to become eligible in all sports.

The Council discussed how support for this potential transfer rule change has grown, and suggested the MHSAA send further explanation of the proposal to school superintendents and principals before the meeting in May.

“Since last summer, there has been membership-wide discussion of proposals that pursue the elusive goal of adopting a transfer rule that is simpler and easier to understand and, therefore, more consistently enforced,” MHSAA Executive Director John E. “Jack” Roberts said. “There appears to be broad consensus that we are on the right path.

“If adopted by the Council in May, the full effect of the changes would not be felt until the 2019-20 school year. What sports are actually played by a student during 2018-19 would determine that student’s eligibility after a transfer for 2019-20.”

The Council also is continuing work on a number of efforts related to the MHSAA’s growing presence at the junior high and middle school level. Under consideration is a proposal increasing the number of contests permitted within the maximum 13-week seasons for several sports, and another proposal relaxing or eliminating the Limited Team Membership regulation for most sports at that level. The Council also is considering expanding the MHSAA’s role as a presenting sponsor at events involving junior high/middle school students.

MHSAA membership at the junior high/middle school level has increased by more than 100 schools – nearly 14 percent – and nearly 70 percent of 800 member junior high/middle schools have begun accommodating 6th-graders in their programs since the MHSAA’s Constitution was amended in 2015 to allow 6th-graders to be included.

“The emphasis on policies and programs related to 6th-, 7th- and 8th-graders is essential if sports at the high school level will remain relevant to students and useful to schools which are trying to engage youth in 21st-century learning,” Roberts said. “We’ve also put many policies under a microscope to see if they can be modified to respond to our customers’ desires for more competition at the 6th- through 8th-grade levels while remaining faithful to our mission of providing these younger student-athletes the opportunity to sample sports and develop new interests and skills.”

A number of other topics were discussed during the Winter Meeting in advance of actions that could take place in May or at the Council’s Fall Meeting in December:

• The Council is considering two leading options for setting the girls and boys basketball regular-season and MHSAA tournament schedules after the 2018-19 season. For 2018-19, for the first time, the boys and girls seasons will flip start and end dates, with the boys starting and ending their season first. This will be done to adjust to the availability of Michigan State University’s Breslin Center to host the boys Semifinals and Finals. For 2018-19, no other arena available is large enough to accommodate the crowd that traditionally attends the final games of the boys postseason.

One option for 2019-20 and possibly beyond includes continuing the current strategy of using multiple sites for Semifinals and Finals weekends while accommodating Breslin (or another largest arena’s) availability – for example, this year’s Boys Semifinals and Finals were played at Breslin, while the Girls Semifinals and Finals were played at Calvin College’s Van Noord Arena because Breslin was not available for the girls weekend. (Breslin and Van Noord will be used for the 2019 Semifinals and Finals weekends as well, again to accommodate Breslin’s availability.) The second option would put the girls and boys tournament schedules over the same three-week period and use the largest available arena to host games on only two days; Semifinals would be played at various sites for both genders, with all four girls and boys championship games played at the largest arena during one weekend.

• Also in girls and boys basketball, the Council will consider possibilities for seeding the top two teams in geographically-determined Districts. MHSAA staff have created plans for possible implementation as requested by the Council at its May 2017 meeting.

• In football, the Council is considering options to assist 8-player football schools with their regular-season scheduling.

“While transfers and junior high/middle school programs are fundamentally more important than single sport issues, we have an eye on several that will generate significant interest,” Roberts said. “Schools which sponsor 8-player football will be receiving plans to assist their scheduling of regular-season games, and they will be asked to provide reactions through an online survey during April.

“Basketball continues to have two issues which have more public interest than genuine importance. One – the boys and girls tournament schedule and championship venue after 2019 – is moving toward a vote in December. The other – limited seeding of boys and girls District tournaments – is scheduled for action in May.”

The Council also talked about ways of involving more junior high/middle school students and at more grade levels, and what possible new high school sports might draw students with a wider variety of interests and abilities. There also was discussion on how eligibility and transfer rules are applied to boarding school students and what modifications would promote competitive equity between boarding schools and both public and nonpublic schools.

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.