MHSAA adds 5th quarter for football, basketball players

By DOUG DONNELLY

OTTAWA LAKE – Prep football and basketball players across the state will have more opportunities to play starting this fall and winter.

The Michigan High School Athletic Association announced some rule changes for the 2020-21 school year, including allowing football players to play in at least five quarters a week and basketball players to appear in as many as five quarters per game day.

Jason Mensing, Whiteford’s athletic director and football coach, is an MHSAA representative council member. He’s been a proponent of the move.

“This is a huge step for Michigan high school football,” Mensing said. “Many stats have had this rule for years and the results of this allows schools to maximize the development of young people through playing in actual games. This truly focuses on participation and development at lower levels vs. purely results-driven experiences.”

The five-quarter rule was one of the changes announced Friday that were approved by the MHSAA’s Representative Council. There were numerous other changes made, from seeding in post-season tournaments to potentially waiving the usual summer dead period and a change in the number of days football teams may meet during the summer as a team.

As for the 2020-21 fall sports season, Michigan prep athletes can begin summer workouts as soon as Gov. Gretchen Whitmer lifts restrictions on occupying school property. Everything is predicated on health and safety guidelines and the next several weeks when it comes to the coronavirus pandemic, but Michigan High School Football Coaches Association Executive Director Scott Farley remains hopeful next season will go on as scheduled.

“The MHSAA is committed to having three seasons,” Farley said. “We are preparing for a normal start to the fall season. If that needs to be altered, those changes will be announced in mid-June.”

The representative council also approved a committee recommendation allowing schools 15 summer dates of non-mandatory contact with an unlimited number of players (wearing helmets only). Schools may use these dates as they see fit, but of these 15 only seven dates may be used for 7-on-7 competition against other teams. This also eliminates the previous allowance for a camp.

Perhaps biggest change will be athletes being permitted to participate in five quarters per week. Previously, football players were limited to one game a week, whether it was a freshman game, junior varsity game or varsity game. Under the new rule, a varsity player could play in one quarter on Friday and still be able to play four full quarters in a junior varsity game that same week. In basketball, the five-quarter rule is based on a per-day basis, meaning a player could appear in four quarters of the JV game and still have be eligible to play in one quarter in the varsity game.

The Michigan High School Athletic Association announced a variety of changes to its 2020-21 rulebook, affecting several different sports. Some highlights:

  • The MHSAA adopted a change to seeding for hockey, basketball and soccer that allows byes for the No. 1 and No. 2 seeds if byes are part of the bracket.
  • Ice hockey teams will be seeded for the post-season with the No. 1 and No. 2 seeds in the Regional being placed at opposite ends of the bracket to ensure they could not meet until the Regional final.
  • The MHSAA has waived the 2020-21 pre-participation physical for any athlete that has a physical on file from the 2019-20 school year, although they are still required to fill and sign a health questionnaire.
  • The summer dead period can now be waived if a school chooses to do so.
  • Baseball will rename its “super regional” to include a quarterfinal game following the regional championship game.
  • Competitive cheer athletes are now allowed to transition to stunts or loads from the flatback position.
  • The council approved a football committee recommendation extending the running clock when a team leads its opponent by 50 points to both the first and second halves of a game. The 50-point running clock stops only for player injuries and previously was employed only during the second half. The 35-point running clock employed during the second half, with stoppages also for penalty enforcement, scoring plays and called timeouts, will remain in effect if the differential dips below 50 and until it reaches 50 points again.

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