LANSING – The Michigan High School Athletic Association (MHSAA) has cracked the door for the return of high school football this fall. According to MHSAA spokesman Geoff Kimmerly Governor Whitmer’s Executive Order 160 prevents football from being played this fall. The social distancing guidelines found in the order must be relaxed for football to return. Kimmerly said that the MHSAA is asking the governor to amend the order so that this is possible.
The football seasons in Indiana and Ohio have gotten underway with no problems so far. MLive is reporting that the MHSAA is willing to reevaluate the possibility of fall football if the governor makes changes to the executive order. Kimmerly said, “If 160 is changed or amended, we would have to evaluate things at that time. That decision is not ours but in the hands of the governor.”
He continued, “We know many of our districts all over the state would play football this fall if it is available, and we would look to revisit giving them that choice. We have seen the possibilities cropping up of students playing football in an out-of-school setting, and we believe they are safest playing in a school environment.” That is the argument the MHSAA Executive Director Mark Uyl has been making all summer.
Programs like seven-on-seven leagues have been sprouting up statewide and are recruiting players. Private individuals and for-profit organizations run them with very little concern for individual safety. He has repeatedly said that he believes athletes are safer working with school related personnel.
Kimmerly went on to say; “We have been discussing 160 with the Governors office since it was announced because it also deals with our ability to play three other sports statewide.” Boy’s soccer, volleyball and girls swimming are also in limbo at this time. Teams from Gladwin County can travel to Regions 6and 8, but cannot host games of their own. Teams from counties with much higher infection rates are also allowed to travel out of their regions to compete.
Much was made of the “Let the Play” rally at the state capital last Friday, but the MHSAA said it had no effect on their decision making process. The data from around the country for the last two weeks does have some influence on the thinking of decision makers with the MHSAA. “In those two weeks we have got a lot of shared experiences from other states that have played football. Thirty-three states including Ohio and Indiana are playing fall football and so far all of the reports have been good, said Kimmerly. “So with all of that in mind our council has some interesting things to talk about.”
Time is running for the return of fall football. “If we were to restart football I think we would probably need a couple of weeks to get things going again. We probably wouldn’t be able to play a full schedule. We would play a shortened schedule and have our tournament,” added Kimmerly.
In a related issue the Detroit Free Press is reporting that Governor Whitmer will make an announcement pertaining to the opening of gyms as early as Wednesday. She is expected to allow them to reopen under certain conditions. Schools have been eagerly awaiting the announcement in the hopes that volleyball and swimming will be allowed in Regions 1-5 and 7.