MHSAA plans to complete football, other fall sports by end of the year

David Goricki
The Detroit News

MHSAA director Mark Uyl expects to have the fall sports season championships completed by the end of the December.

If COVID-19 positive numbers go down, and the three-week suspension is lifted, teams could hit the restart button on Dec. 9 and resume competition. If not, fall sports championships could be pushed into early 2021, but that’s not desirable by the MHSAA.

Uyl also hopes winter sports can begin next month with basketball teams possibly playing during the holiday break.

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer halted all high school sports on Sunday night for at least three weeks. The football season has three weeks of playoffs remaining, and the volleyball and girls swimming seasons were scheduled to be completed this week.

Sterling Heights Stevenson's Tony Shumate runs for a short gain against West Bloomfield's Masiyah Spann during a district championship game, Saturday, Nov. 14, 2020.

“Our fall tournaments are suspended; they are not cancelled,” Uyl said Monday. “Our goal when we started off this new athletic year was that we were going to find a way to have three seasons in 2020-21 and we were going to find out a way to make sure that each of those three seasons culminated with a finish. Certainly with the latest curveball that every citizen in Michigan got last night, we’re heading into another three-week (pause).

“Our goals and our plans have not changed.”

The three-week shutdown for high school sports will end Dec. 8. Girls basketball practice started Nov. 9 and boys basketball was supposed to start Monday.

More: Michigan high school football playoffs matchups: Regionals

Uyl wasn’t shocked by the announcement of the shutdown.

“I think all of us had been hearing rumors over the last week to 10 days that a new order could be coming, certainly when you look at our COVID data going back to last month,” he said.

“What gave us so much optimism the entire fall, when you look at the snapshots of the COVID data going back to Aug. 1, just before all of our fall practices began, through Oct. 1, you take that first two-month snapshot of the fall athletic season, which also includes almost a full month after the football restart. … When you look at the statewide positive test rate on Aug. 1 we were at 2.3 percent; two months later it only increased to 2.8 percent.”

Still, Uyl said this current shutdown is far different than the one back in March, which ultimately ended winter sports with teams not getting the chance to play for championships.

“I think this is much different than when we were at in March and April,” Uyl said. “That was a new phenomenon to all of us.

“Now we have two months-plus of data where we’ve shown that not only sports can be played, but it can be done safely. In football we have 94 percent-plus of our schools being able to play each week. During our volleyball tournament, very similar stats of 94 percent-plus were able to play.

“We have an incredible amount of data that shows that sports can be done safely.”

Uyl still hopes to conduct the state football finals at Ford Field, just later than the scheduled dates of Dec. 4-5.

“If we are able to resume football here in December, we’ll find two new dates with the Lions,” Uyl said. “The Lions do have two home games; their last two Sundays are at home (Dec. 27, Jan. 3). But there is an awful lot of flexibility in December, and the (state finals) might not fall on a Friday and Saturday.”

Uyl said the MHSAA would not rule out going past Jan. 1 to complete fall sports.

“If the order is extended we look at what the extension date would be and then we would sit down again as a staff, and we would tweak and change our plans as well,” he said.

“Finishing in December is certainly option No. 1. If the pause gets extended, I think that playing games outdoors in January and February don’t make much sense, and then we’d have to look at options to finish that tournament potentially once the weather gets a little bit better.

“But I think all of us know the arguments in Michigan about trying to play football outdoors in the spring. So we really have a challenge here over the next three weeks to do the right things to get our (COVID) numbers to back to where we were in August, September and early October.”