We receive much unsolicited comment about the performances of officials and the conduct of spectators. Here’s some of what the MHSAA does to actively solicit input from its key constituents.
Since 1956, the MHSAA has required member schools to provide numerical ratings of officials who work their contests. Since 1998, the system has also allowed schools to cite particular areas of perceived weakness; and doing so is required whenever a school provides a rating of “5” (worst) on the 1-to-5 scale.
There are many deficiencies in a system like this, including that it sometimes means that coaches or administrators are doing the rating, and some of them have never officiated and may not know the rules and mechanics as well as the officials. The rating can also be affected by whether the school won or lost.
Nevertheless, the system has value, not as a true evaluation of an official’s performance for any particular contest, but – when the ratings of all schools are combined over a three-year average – as a number that the official can use to understand his or her abilities relative to all other officials. And it’s a number the MHSAA can use, along with recommendations of local officials associations and assigners, when considering assignments to various levels of MHSAA tournaments.
It is also noteworthy that for 25 years, the MHSAA has used a reporting form allowed in some cases and required in others, whereby officials report unusual events to the MHSAA office immediately after contests. During a typical fall season, about 300 such reports will be filed; about 250 each winter season; about 200 each spring season. Any school which receives three or more negative reports over three seasons receives a letter of concern from the MHSAA and the school’s name is published in benchmarks; and any school that receives no such reports over three seasons receives a letter of praise.
In 2008-09, the MHSAA also began a program whereby officials could rate school sportsmanship. During the winter season of 2013-14, there were approximately 4,000 reports filed, including 2,400 in basketball. The Basketball Coaches Association of Michigan honors the best 100 schools where BCAM members are coaching.
Separated by 527 travel miles – whether over Mackinac Bridge or around Lake Michigan, the Novara family celebrated nearly parallel football successes this fall.
At Portland, John Novara completed his 25th season as head coach leading the Raiders to a 12-1 record – their best since finishing Division 5 runner-up in 2018, and a second-straight Capital Area Activities Conference White championship on the way to reaching the Division 4 Semifinals.
At Kingsford, fifth-year coach Mark Novara led the Flivvers to a 10-2 record – their best since posting the same in 2004. Kingsford shared the Western Peninsula Athletic Conference Copper title and won a Division 5 District title, its first District championship since 2009.
John Novara graduated from Iron Mountain in 1989, and younger brother Mark graduated from Kingsford in 1993.
Similarly parallel, both teams were quarterbacked by Novaras. Dominic Novara directed the Raiders’ attack, and cousin Nic Novara led the Flivvers. Both are juniors. (Mark Novara was a Division III All-American at quarterback at Lakeland College in Wisconsin.)
One more connection: Portland athletic director Kevin Veale quarterbacked the Iron Mountain teams with John Novara as tight end long before they worked together downstate. Veale’s nephew Garrett Veale was a standout two-way lineman for Mark Novara and Kingsford this fall.
Small gesture, memorable connection
Dante DeGrazia’s senior season was sadly short-lived this fall, as he suffered a season-ending injury during the first half of South Lyon East’s opening game against White Lake Lakeland at Michigan Stadium.
But an official provided a memory the DeGrazias will not forget.
Chris Curtis had begun his 16th season as an official earlier that day at U-M, and stuck around to watch the Lakes Valley Conference matchup. A month later, he was officiating the East/Warren Mott game, and made sure to check in with DeGrazia – a small gesture, but a meaningful one as well and another reminder of the interconnectedness of communities within educational athletics.
“When he heard my son wasn't able to play anymore, needed surgery and that he was a senior, he offered him kindness and a hug on the field,” Dante’s mother Dana DeGrazia wrote to East athletic director Greg Michaels. “As a parent whose son is going through a rough time dealing with losing his senior season, hearing this story from Dante means a lot to me and the support that was given to him and I wanted to reach out and tell him thank you.”
PHOTOS (Top) Kingsford football coach Mark Novara, far left, quarterback Nic Novara and Portland coach (and uncle) John Novara celebrate the Flivvers' District title. (Middle) South Lyon East's Dante DeGrazia (33) and official Chris Curtis meet for a quick hug during East's Week 5 game. (Photos courtesy of the Portland football program and DeGrazia family, respectively.)