'I'm tired of it': Coaches angered over latest MHSAA halt to fall sports practices, delays in competition

David Goricki
The Detroit News

Well, Pause III has hit the high school football season and coaches are not happy about it.

The MHSAA announced last Friday that teams could practice Monday and regional games would be played Jan. 2 with state semifinals on Jan. 9 and state championship games Jan. 15-16.

The MHSAA halted practices on Tuesday — after teams restarted two days following a near five-week layoff when the original three-week pause was put in play by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.

The West Bloomfield high school football team runs drills during practice on Monday.

MHSAA stated in its release Tuesday that fall teams taking part in the pilot program are expected to receive rapid result antigen tests and more instruction by Dec. 29.

The MHSAA went on to say that the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services will be conducting webinars Dec. 28-29 to train school personnel who will be involved in the testing process.

More:Michigan high school football teams get acclimated to cold to finish playoffs

Once the first tests have been administered next Wednesday, Dec. 30, full team practices may resume. If schools are delayed in the start of testing, those schools may begin practice once individuals have had one negative test.

District championship games, the last time teams played, were held on Nov. 13-14. With Pause III now in play, teams will not have played a game for two months with the new schedule to be announced soon according to the MHSAA, more than likely having regional games Jan. 15-16.

Belleville — 9-0 and ranked No. 1 in The Detroit News Super 20 — was scheduled to play No. 2 Detroit Cass Tech Nov. 20, then Jan. 2 and now?

“I’m tired of it, we get back thinking we’re getting ready and now we’re not going to do it again,” Belleville coach Jermain Crowell said. “Can we just wait until the spring. It’s about to get cold, like really cold. This has just sucked the life out of me.

“I would not deny my kids the opportunity to win the state championship, but I think that the powers that be should really take a look at what this yo-yoing to the kids, parents and all the administrators is doing. Like, at what point in time is it not safe?

“It’s an emotional roller coaster. We just dismissed them from practice. I just got the kids to where, ‘We got a game next Saturday,’ we’re trying to adjust to the weather. This is a lot. This is really a lot. I’m just tired. I was going to Arizona for the holidays, then the news broke (on Friday) that we’re back.”

Belleville will be without standout receiver Deion Burks, who is enrolling early for Purdue.

And, who knows who still will be around by then for Cass Tech, which has center Raheem Anderson enrolling early at Michigan and the King twins, cornerback Kalen and linebacker Kobe to Penn State.

Classes start at Michigan in mid-January so West Bloomfield standout running back Donovan Edwards could also be gone by the time regional games are played. Davison quarterback Brendan Sullivan is in a similar situation with Northwestern starting at approximately the same time.

Grand Rapids Catholic Central coach Todd Kolster feels the season should be shut down until spring.

“I think there needs to be some real soul searching at the MHSAA office,” Kolster said. “I think that what we have done to kids is absolutely inexcusable and what we have done to people and their Christmas plans and everything else is absolutely inexcusable and someone needs to be held accountable at this point.

“I do not see why we should continue next week. I don’t understand why we don’t do this in the spring. We don’t need more than three weeks. It would be great to have the MHSAA let us do conditioning and team drills on the weekends of February, give us the four weekends in February, then when the winter sports end in the second week of March we have a week of practice and the regional final games, a week of practice and then the semifinals and a week of practice and the state finals and then we’re into spring break and spring sports.

“That’s the easiest solution for everybody, the easiest solution for the health department, it’s the easiest solution for the MHSAA and it’s the best solution for the kids, which is ultimately what matters, and we’ve royally screwed these kids over. I’ve never seen anything like it in all my years.”

When the MHSAA said players needed to have tests with the pilot program in place, Stevensville Lakeshore opted out of the tournament. Lakeshore was set to play DeWitt.

“The parents were not going to agree to test their high school kids because we don’t test high school kids," said Kolster, who has guided Grand Rapids Catholic Central to three Division 4 state titles in the last four years. "We’re not allowed to drug test them, it’s against the law, we’re not allowed to do these things, but yet we’re going to force COVID tests on them that are 60 or 70 percent accurate.

“Our kids dread coming to the workouts because they are fearful of a test and letting their team down. They are fearful of going outside because they don’t want to go anywhere where they could let their team down and get COVID. They think it would be their fault and it’s no one’s fault. It just happens.”