MHSAA braces for $1M-plus in lost revenues; if schools are canceled for year, sports will be, too
The potential cancellations of high-school sports through the spring, most notably the boys and girls state basketball tournaments, could cost the Michigan High School Athletic Association more than $1 million in revenues.
The MHSAA continues to say its sports, including winter championships and spring seasons, are suspended rather than canceled, but if Gov. Gretchen Whitmer extends school closings beyond April 5, that will change.
Multiple states, including Florida and Kansas, have closed for the academic year as the coronavirus outbreak continues to bring the world to a halt.
"If there is no school, there is no athletics," said John Johnson, an exec with the MHSAA. "If the buildings are going to be closed, sure you can play a basketball game anywhere, but we don't want to run counter in that regard to what we're told."
Suspended winter championships include boys and girls basketball, hockey, girls gymnastics and boys swimming and diving. Suspended spring sports seasons include baseball, softball, boys golf, girls golf (Upper Peninsula), boys and girls lacrosse, girls soccer, boys tennis (UP), girls tennis (Lower Peninsula), and boys and girls track and field.
Winter sports such as wrestling, boys and girls bowling, competitive cheer, boys and girls skiing and UP girls swimming and diving completed their finals before the shutdown went into effect last week.
The football playoffs in the fall recently moved into the top spot among the MHSAA's biggest revenue earners, but the two basketball tournaments are a close second.
For 2020, the MHSAA budgeted $1,273,200 to run the basketball tournaments, and its budget is typically, at least in recent years, exceeded by revenues, including a portion of ticket sales at district and regional sites, and the gate at the state semifinals and finals, which for the girls were scheduled for this week and for the boys next week, both at Breslin Center in East Lansing.
Football and basketball are the two sports finals that bring in more than $1 million to the MHSAA, with wrestling a distant third, at more than $600,000. Baseball, hockey, soccer, softball, track and field and volleyball each bring in more than $200,000.
"Basketball for many, many years was No. 1; it has since been passed by football in terms of revenue," Johnson said. "It's still not insignificant, the potential loss from basketball. It's still not a small amount.
"With all that, it's a blow, but it's not a crippling blow to the association. We have some reserves that will enable us to keep serving schools."
Johnson said in recent years, a couple of the sports finals have turned a profit, leading to a rainy-day fund for the MHSAA — and nothing in any of our lifetimes qualifies as a rainy day like the current predicament.
Johnson said the MHSAA hasn't had to lay off any of its 26 full-time staff members, even as they all are working from home these days.
This also affects high schools that were to host districts and regionals. Hosts get a chunk of the gate, and the MHSAA the rest, post-expenses.
If the basketball tournaments are canceled, it will be the first time no state champions are crowned in the sport since 1943, in the thick of World War II. Back then, regions held what were called "local tournaments," still broken down by classification, with winners being presented not a trophy, but rather a hand-crafted leather plaque from a jewelry store in Detroit.
Orchard Lake St. Mary's apparently has one of the rare plaques on display.
"But that was all planned for," Johnson said of the World War II hiatus. "This is not planned for."