Frequently asked questions
By Dan Hardenbrook
We are now less than a week away from an expected announcement from the Michigan High School Athletic Association regarding the future of fall sports in the state. This week we take a look at some of the big questions that are being discussed, as well as some that I have received from fans, parents, and athletes.
Q: Is spring football a real possibility in the U.P.?
A: I’ve told people over the past few days that I’ve gone back and forth over football being in the fall or flipped to the spring. I’m back to the point where I think the season moves. I see the state looking to buy more time and save a season for a majority of the state. 90% of the MHSAA’s member schools are below the bridge and the numbers don’t look good. There are so many questions and the fact that we still don’t even know if schools will open in the fall leads me to believe the MHSAA makes the move.
Q: How would that work for the U.P.?
A: Here’s the challenge. I don’t think you could get a full season in. Our football facility has been buried in snow all the way up until May for the past three winters. Even if you find somebody to clear it off, the ground is a hazard because it’s still frozen. With all of the work schools have done to promote safety and put anti-concussion protocols in place over the past few years, I don’t see how it can be done safely. I know hockey teams play on ice all the time, but they are a different breed and their sport is designed for it. Plus, in a spring season practice would start mid-March, games would have to begin in early April, and even then you are only getting in seven or eight games before school gets out and tournaments have to begin. That’s not a lot of time in a season that would see games begin in 20 degree temps and end in the 80s. Typically the spring season only sees about a six week window for games.
Q: Why not split the seasons for the U.P. and lower peninsula?
A: To me, this makes the most sense. But I’m not sure the state bites. By doing this they would be splitting the states into two seasons, creating twice as much work for those involved. Also, if you split the seasons by peninsula, the state tournaments and playoffs would be considerably shorter, eliminating large gates and revenue from an already struggling MHSAA and taking another chunk of money away from schools. But there is no major reason why the U.P. can’t play in the fall. Numbers remain low, schools are already putting protocols in place for summer workouts. The weather is right, and you could limit travel and still play a full season safely.
Q: What about regional scheduling?
A: I love it for the high school level. Recently the Big Ten and Pac 12 announced that all fall sports would play conference games only to limit travel and possible exposure from other areas. Travel is going to be a key piece of the decision the MHSAA makes. I would put it as the second most important issue behind the contact of the sport. MLB went division only games with regional crossovers, and the NBA and NHL are limiting their teams to one single location. As the MHSAA consults those decisions, they may look to eliminate conferences for one year and make a regional block. That’s actually great news for the EUP. You can make a full nine game season and not have to go any further than St. Ignace or Munising. Newberry, Engadine, Rudyard, Brimley, Pickford, Cedarville, St. Ignace, Munising, and Superior Central are all 8 Man Schools within distance. That’s eight games, you could start a week later to buy more time to put plans in place. And you could do an east vs west style U.P. Championship with the top four teams from each side getting into the playoffs.
So many questions, so many possible answers. But one thing is clear. Decision day is coming. MHSAA: it’s your move!