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Jack Roberts: Taking a look at the tourney

Published 7:50pm Thursday, July 15, 2010

When MHSAA tournaments began in the early 1900s, high schools were much more alike in size, type and demographics than high schools are today.  There was some variety, of course, but far less than today.

Now, with such a wide variety of types of school and so much variance within each type of school, we may need to find new ways to promote competitive equity in MHSAA tournaments; in other words, new ways to group schools for competition.

Except for expanding the number of classes, and then moving in most sports from traditional classes to divisions with the same number of teams in each division, there hasn’t been much change in the way we’ve grouped schools for tournaments in almost 100 years, while schools have been changing greatly, especially so during the past 15 years.

I don’t mean putting nonpublic or charter schools in separate tournaments.  That would create impossible travel and financial burdens for these schools; it would increase travel distances and expenses for the remaining schools; and it would result in much larger enrollment ranges for remaining schools, resulting in greater concerns for competitive equity than exist today.  Be wary of “simple solutions” for they rarely are either simple or solutions.

Objectively, we do have some schools that seem to have a competitive advantage over other schools in some sports.  Some of them are nonpublic schools, some are public school academies, and some are traditional public schools.  Objectively, we do have some schools that never have any MHSAA tournament success in any sport.  And some of those are nonpublic schools, some are public school academies, and some are traditional public schools.

It is not the legal status of a school that’s the predictor; and penalizing programs after success somehow seems un-American.  I believe the proper approach to this topic is to be dissatisfied with the status quo, skeptical of simple solutions, and open-minded to more thoughtful ideas, which I’ll suggest next time.

John “Jack” Roberts is the executive director of the Michigan High School Athletic Association.

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