Rule changes announced by MHSAA for 2009-10

Published 3:53 pm Friday, August 7, 2009

EAST LANSING – Significant rules change from a safety standpoint will be at the forefront as formal preparations for the 2009-10 fall sports season begin next week for over 110,000 students in eight sports at member schools of the Michigan High School Athletic Association.

Practice sessions begin on Monday in football with golf, followed by all other sports on Wednesday. A major change to the calendar that begins with the new year is that all sports now have a required number of practice days before they engage in competition, to provide a framework that promotes conditioning and a legitimate window for team tryouts to be conducted in.

Practice in football must begin on Aug. 10 for all schools wishing to begin regular season games the weekend of Aug. 27-30. Schools must have 12 days of preseason practice at all levels before their first game, which may not occur before 16 calendar days. All football schools must also conduct at least three conditioning days of practice before beginning contact, and the conditioning sessions may not include any pads.

In golf and tennis, competition may commence no earlier than after three separate days of team practice, and not before seven calendar days.  The first day competition may take place in golf and tennis is Aug. 19. In all other fall sports, contests can take place after seven days of practice for the team and not before 14 calendar days. The first day competition may take place in cross country, tennis soccer, swimming and diving, and volleyball in the fall is Aug. 21.

This year, two football dates precede Labor Day, and Thursday varsity games will take place both weeks. In Week 1, 41 eleven-player games will be played on Thursday, 250 contests will be played on Friday, and 15 games will be played on Saturday. The following weekend, 216 games will be played on Thursday, 86 games will be played on Friday, and 7 games will be played on Saturday.

The major football rules change by the National Federation of State High School for 2009 is that the horse-collar tackle has been added to the list of illegal personal fouls. Effective this season, it will be illegal to grab the inside back or side collar of the runner’s shoulder pads or jersey and subsequently pull the runner to the ground. The penalty will be 15 yards from the succeeding spot.

There are two other risk-minimization changes in 2009. One change will make it illegal to grasp an opponent’s chin strap, in addition to the opponent’s face mask or edge of a helmet opening. The national rules committee also made a significant change in an effort to reduce the risk of injury along the sidelines. A maximum of three coaches may be in the restricted area between the sideline and the restraining line to communicate with players during dead-ball situations. Before the ball becomes live, however, the coaches must retreat into the team box. This is to keep the six-foot zone between the sideline and the restraining line open for officials the length of the field. The restraining line is also in place outside the team bench area to keep other sideline personnel – chain gangs, trainers, media, and others — back from the field during play.

The most visible rules change in girls volleyball will permit head coaches to stand during play with limitations. The head coach may stand in the libero replacement zone during play, and shall not be closer than six feet to the sideline. If the team bench is carded by the official at any point during the match, the head coach will lose the privilege to stand for the remainder of the match. Additionally, a change was made to allow the ball to contact any part of the body legally. Previously, the ball was only allowed to hit a player from the waist up for the contact to be legal.

Based on an increase of sponsorship by member schools in Lower Peninsula Girls Golf, the MHSAA post-season tournament expands to four divisions of plays beginning this fall.