By DOUG DONNELLY
The Michigan High School Athletic Association is committed to resuming the fall sports tournaments as soon as possible and complete them during the 2020 calendar year.
Mark Uyl, executive director of the MHSAA, told a group of statewide media Monday afternoon that state athletic officials Wednesday plan to release a revised plan for sports to continue once the current pause is lifted by state health officials.
“We have an incredible amount of data that shows sports can be done safely,” Uyl said.
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced new emergency orders issued by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Sunday. Among them was a pause for all high school sports. The MHSAA is amid its state tournaments for swimming and diving, football, and volleyball.
In Lenawee County, Tecumseh has qualifiers for the state swimming and diving finals and three football teams – Lenawee Christian, Sand Creek and Clinton – remain alive in the state tournament. In Monroe County, Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central has reached the quarterfinals in volleyball and Summerfield and Milan remain alive in the state football playoffs.
Uyl said state athletic officials want to provide student-athletes from across the state the experience of a state tournament and competition.
“Our goals and our plans have not changed,” he said, adding later that finishing in December is “option No. 1.”
The volleyball and swimming & diving tournaments have one week remaining, with MHSAA Finals for both previously scheduled for Nov. 21. The 11 and 8-Player Football Playoffs also are nearing their conclusions, with the 8-player postseason two games from completion and 11-player down to its final three rounds.
“Our bottom line here is we want to give an experience to the kids,” Uyl said. “If that means we are able to resume in December and if we have to complete those three tournaments with zero spectators and that means those kids get to get to the finish line of their season, so be it.
“If we are able to re-start those with only a limited number of spectators, so be it. What’s going to drive any decision here is us being able to get our kids and our teams to the finish line.”
Uyl said the pause order by the state was not surprising. He said the challenge now is for everyone to do their diligence and get the Covid-19 numbers back to what they were in August and September, or lower, which is when fall sports was able to start.
“If we want to give our kids a chance, this is what we have to do,” he said.
On Wednesday, the MHSAA’s Representative Council will meet to discuss plans to resume fall sports after Dec. 8, which is when the current emergency order is set to end. He hopes to have a plan in place and release it by Wednesday. If high school sports can resume, he doesn’t anticipate a lengthy time for athletes to get back in shape to finish out the fall sports championships.
“If order is extended, we’ll look at what the extension date is and sit down as a staff, re-engage our board and go into plan B and plan C,” he said.
Another part of that discussion will be the winter sports season, which is also on pause. Practices for some sports began last week and others, such as boy’s basketball, were to begin today.
Whiteford Athletic Director Jason Mensing and Adrian Madison Athletic Director Kris Isom are among the 19-members of the representative council.
A couple of points he made about football is that he still hopes to have the 11-player finals at Ford Field and doesn’t anticipate teams having to play any more than one game a week, although the finals might be played on days other than Friday or Saturday. The MHSAA currently mandates a minimum of five days in between football games and he said that regulation wouldn’t change.
Last year the MHSAA ended basketball season during the state tournament and canceled spring sports. Officials now have better data and months’ worth of information to put new plans in place. The experience of the last eight months put the MHSAA in a better position to make decisions, he said.
“I think this is much different than where we were at last March and April,” Uyl said. “We absolutely have a chance to have three seasons this year.”
Last weekend, for example, 97 percent of the football teams still alive in the state tournament were able to play.
He called this “the most unique and bizarre year of any of our lives.” No matter what happens, he added, having high school sports in Michigan was important for everyone.
“I think what we’ve been able to do since August has been incredible for the kids in our state,” he said.