MHSAA hopes for go-ahead from Whitmer to resume sports next week

David Goricki
The Detroit News

Michigan High School Athletic Association director Mark Uyl hopes Gov. Gretchen Whitmer gives his staff the go-ahead to put the fall season back into play Wednesday so it can complete championships in volleyball, football and girls swimming by the end of the month.

Uyl, appearing on the Huge Show on Friday, said he and his staff have done all they can to persuade Whitmer to let them complete the fall season, which was put on hold on Nov. 15.

Uyl said Whitmer and her staff reached out to the MHSAA and they had a video conference last week.

Marquise Henderson and Detroit Loyola are scheduled to play New Lothrop in a Division 7 regional when the high school football playoffs resume next week.

“We’re following all the data that we collected from the fall, showing that 95 percent-plus of our teams in football and volleyball were able to play every week of the season, and that number was 98 percent-plus in all of our other fall sports,” Uyl said.

“We even attached a caveat to that, that if you’re going to allow us to play but with no spectators, then so be it, because we’re putting our kids here first. And if the science and data say the kids aren’t getting this or spreading this during the school day, in practice or during games, and the issues are crowds and gatherings, then this plan allows kids to play safely and also addresses the concerns about crowds and gatherings."

In addition to restarting fall sports on Dec. 9, the MHSAA is asking that winter sports be permitted to practice for the remainder of the month, with competitions starting on Jan. 4.

"There was some real good dialogue, and since we had that conversation, like everybody we’re just kind of on the edge of our seats waiting for what happens next,” Uyl said.

"We have our plan in place, we’re ready to go if we get the chance to move forward next Wednesday. We’re just literally on the edge of our seats waiting for what our government leadership is going to tell us.”

More: Michigan high school football playoffs schedule: Regionals

Uyl is proud of how schools across Michigan have been able to play sports safely this fall.

“We’ve been doing this safely since August, the numbers and the data shows that,” Uyl said. “We haven’t had much communication at all with our state health department, so that has kind of forced us to go out and build some new friendships and new alliances with some local county health department heads.

“We’ve become so COVID-conscious with everything that we’re doing, and that’s important, but we have to take under consideration the mental health of our kids. We’ve been doing more and more in the area of student-athlete mental health over the last two years and all the feedback and all the surveys that we’ve seen about mental health during the pandemic, it hasn’t gotten better, it’s actually gotten worse, and I just don’t want folks to forget about that part of the equation either.”

Uyl believes sports should be played even if the state does not permit classroom learning.

“We had a lot of our schools back in August that started the school year virtually but still allowed athletics to move forward because that was the way to get kids back to campus in small groups, always with the same two or three coaches," he said. "It wasn’t like they were rotating from class to class. I would agree that in normal times the optics of not being able to have your entire student body back on campus, but still trying to play sports, normal times that doesn’t look right. However, I think, and what our government has done, they have tried to identify some parts of society where if those activities can be done safely, go ahead, and other activities we have to pause or hold off on those.

“Really, it’s not all that different from when every year you start practice in August for three to four weeks and then school begins. So hopefully we’ll be able to get that opportunity come next Wednesday.”