MHSAA states its case for restarting sports

Published 1:27 pm Saturday, December 5, 2020

EDWARDSBURG — The frustration level is rising at the Michigan High School Athletic Association as the state of Michigan continues to leave it out of the discussions about COVID-19 guidelines.

Executive Director Mark Uyl was on The Huge Show Friday and revealed that the MHSAA has sent a formal letter to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services asking that it be allowed to restart football, volleyball and girls swimming and diving season on Dec. 9.

Whitmer and the MDHHS put Michigan on pause Nov. 15 due to rising COVID-19 numbers. A three-week break included not allowing schools to have in-person instruction and halting all sports seasons and practices.

The MHSAA was about to wrap up its swimming and diving, along with volleyball later that week, and continue its state football playoffs. Swimming and diving were scheduled for their finals, while volleyball still had quarterfinal, semifinals and finals matches yet to be played.

Football was about to reach the semifinal round in 8-man and the regional championship round in 11-man football.

“We laid out our case to finish out our three fall seasons in December,” Uyl said on The Huge Show. “We attached the caveat that if they allow us to play, but with no spectators, so be it. we’re putting kids first. If the issue is with crowds and gatherings, this plan addresses that concern.”

Later Sunday night, after the governor put the state on pause, the MHSAA released its plan to restart the fall sports seasons and resume winter sports practice for boys and girls basketball, along with wrestling.

That plan began with teams being allowed to get back to work on Dec. 9 to prepare to finish the volleyball, football and swimming and diving seasons in December and starting the winter sports season in early January.

Many believe the executive order will be extended beyond Dec. 8, forcing the MHSAA to implement its backup plan.

Uyl said the MHSAA is asking the governor and the MDHHS to either lift the ban on Tuesday or exempt high school sports and allow the seasons to continue.

“We were able to share all the data,” Uyl said. “If we’re following the science and data, all of that shows that 95 percent of our football teams were able to play this season, and that number was 98 percent in other fall sports.”

Uyl went on to say that the state would like to give the players some closure, unlike the 2019-20 winter sports athletes, who had their seasons cut short in mid-March. The state would also like to proceed with its plan to have three individual sports seasons, meaning it would not have to cancel spring sports as it did last year.

On Tuesday, the MHSAA released its updated schedule for the conclusion of the fall sports seasons. The volleyball finals would wrap up Dec. 19 in Battle Creek at the Kellogg Arena, the swimming and diving finals would also conclude Dec. 19 at Hudsonville, Grand Rapids Northview and Lake Orion High School.

The 8-man football finals would be Dec. 21 and Dec. 22 at Midland Community Stadium, with the 11-man finals set for Dec. 28 and Dec. 29 at Ford Field.

“In normal times, the optics of not having the entire student body on campus, but still playing sports doesn’t look good,” Uyl said. “But even if [Whitmer] says schools should stay closed, there’s a good argument that we should give kids one slice of normalcy.”