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MHSAA tweaks seeding process for hockey, basketball, soccer postseasons, loosens restrictions to help programs deal with impact of COVID-19 pandemic

By: MATTHEW B. MOWERY, May 8, 2020, 9:23 am

The MHSAA announced several rules changes from its spring meeting of the Representative Council earlier this week:

• Hockey will be seeded at the regional level, employing the MPR computer formula, to ensure that the two top teams in each regional are on opposite sides of the bracket, and cannot meet until the regional finals at the earliest. Brackets will be drawn 15 days prior to the start of regionals. 

• The seeding process will change for basketball and soccer (with hockey included) for the top two seeded teams to earn byes, if the bracket has multiple byes, with the remainder of the bracket randomly drawn.

• With an aim to help out football and basketball programs struggling with numbers, the MHSAA loosened the restrictions on the number of quarters a player may participate in per week, allowing athletes to contribute to teams on both the varsity and sub-varsity level at the same time. Football players may play in five quarters per week (but only four per day), and basketball players may compete in five quarters per day, but no more than three dates per week and 20 dates per season.

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There were a few changes made to counteract the issues that have arisen from the COVID-19 pandemic:

• The council waived the requirement for a physical for those athletes who got one last year.

• The council also allowed athletic directors to request a waiver for student athletes to wear competition uniforms to school-sponsored events recognizing this year’s senior class.

• The council gave schools the option of waiving the annual dead week in the summer for this year. 

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Travel restrictions eased — somewhat

While Michigan teams in basketball, football, ice hockey, lacrosse, soccer and volleyball must still limit their travel to out-of-state summer tournaments to bordering states/provinces (Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Ontario and Wisconsin) or within 300 miles one way, they can now participate against opponents at those events who have exceeded the current 300-mile limit. 

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Other notable changes from the spring meeting (and a few left over from the winter):

BASEBALL: The council approved a recommendation by the baseball committee that any game suspended before it reaches regulation status — or if it is tied — will be picked up from that point at a later date, unless both schools agree to replay it in its entirety. 

BASEBALL: After a one-year trial with the Super Regional format for the postseason, the naming convention will return to calling them quarterfinals, but the format will be the same. Teams will be awarded regional championship trophies after the conclusion of the first game of the day — the regional finals — and before the two winners face off later that day for the quarterfinal game. 

BASEBALL: Rather than the same schedule every year, the finals schedule will alternate between having semifinals for Divisions 2 and 4 on Thursday in even-numbered years (and Friday in odd), and having the D1-D3 semis on Thursday in odd years (Friday in even).

COMPETITIVE CHEER: The council approved a cheer committee recommendation to allow athletes “to transition to stunts or loads from the flatback position.”

COMPETITIVE CHEER: The council approved a cheer committee recommendation to allow bases to “rotate or move while a flyer is in the inverted position (in a static inversion), and to provide for the allowance of additional flairs at the point of static inversion.”

COMPETITIVE CHEER: The council approved a cheer committee recommendation adding one more safety judge (for three total) and five panel judges at regionals.

FOOTBALL: The council approved a football committee recommendation to extend the running-clock rule to the first half, if the lead reaches 50 points. The second-half rule will remain in effect at a 35-point lead. 

FOOTBALL: Schools will be allowed 15 summer dates of non-mandatory contact, but only seven of those dates may be used for 7-on-7 competition against other teams. Other than that stipulation, teams may use the 15 dates — with an unlimited number of players, in helmets only — as they see fit. The camp allowance is eliminated.

HOCKEY: The council adopted a committee recommendation that all members of coaching staffs wear HECC-certified helmets while on ice for practice or games.

SKIING: Athletes who qualify for the finals in one discipline at regionals may compete in both disciplines at the finals.

GIRLS SOCCER: Athletes may compete in scrimmages at a maximum of two college ID camps during the spring season. 

SWIMMING & DIVING: The number of qualifiers from each regional will be proportional to the number of entries at that regional, to ensure that regionals with fewer qualifiers aren’t over represented. Each division will still advance 36 divers total to the finals. Swimmers may also wear caps reading “state team” during the regular season and postseason.

TENNIS: Both girls and boys tennis were added to the list of sports that may employ cooperative programs between schools that do not exceed 3,500 combined students. The rule will be reexamined after a two-year trial.

TENNIS: The two-day finals will be conducted on Friday-Saturday, unless there’s a conflict with the host site, forcing it to be held Thursday-Friday. 

OFFICIATING: Coaches and athletes ejected from competitions are now required to complete an NFHS online sportsmanship course before returning to competition.