• Michigan

No more empty stadiums for MHSAA: Governor’s new EO allows increase in spectator numbers, starting Oct. 9

By: MATTHEW B. MOWERY, September 30, 2020, 4:26 pm

As weird as it has been for athletes to play in front of mostly empty stands for the first few weeks of the fall, that jarring feeling of strangeness may only have another week or so left before it starts to diminish. 

Under Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s latest Executive Order — No. 183, issued last Friday — the size of crowds for sporting events can begin to increase starting on Friday, Oct. 9, meaning that crowds will no longer be limited to two spectators per participant. 

“It’s gonna remove the ‘one participant gets two spectators’ — that goes out the window,” Michigan High School Athletic Association executive director Mark Uyl said on a radio appearance on ‘The Huge Show’ Wednesday afternoon. “The most significant thing it does for outdoor is it opens up Friday night, at least for the last three regular-season weeks, for schools to include their dance teams, their pom-pon squads, the marching band. It just gives schools so much more flexibility to include those student groups that have been traditionally attached to games.”

According to guidance sent by the MHSAA to its member schools on Wednesday, the new limits will be:

For indoor events, the limit is 20 percent of the fixed seating capacity of the venue (25 percent in Regions 6 and 8, which encompass Northern Michigan and the UP), with a maximum of 500.

For outdoor events, the limit is 30 percent of the venue’s fixed seating capacity, with a maximum of 1,000.

For events at venues without fixed seating capacities (i.e. cross country, golf or a soccer field with no permanent seating), the site is limited to no more than 30 spectators per 1,000 square feet of the facility, up to 1,000.

“No longer does a player have to pick the two people that go on their list, because we’ve got a lot of cases — heck, my mom and dad are the craziest sports fans on the planet, and for years, they’ve been at all my kids’ stuff, but of course, for the last three weeks, my senior football player and my eighth-grade volleyball player, they’ve only got two (spots), and that goes to mom and dad. It just opens things up for families that are split family, or where grandparents are very involved, or aunts and uncles — they’re going to be able to be included,” Uyl said.

“We’re going to encourage our schools that we really need to do a good job of setting boundaries and expectations, but now for the first time, we can really let some students sections back in. And again, it can’t turn into the Cameron Crazies — we’ve gotta socially distance, wear the mask, and do all those things — but finally, our student body can become more involved in games, starting next Friday, too.”

The sale and disbursement of the tickets will be up to the schools themselves, but Uyl did say that there would be a requirement of splitting the tickets on a 50-50 basis between the visitors and home fans, if there were a presale.

“Certainly if we’re going to host a game, and we’re going to sell pre-sale tickets, you have to be able to give fans at both schools to get tickets ahead of time, if that’s what you’re gonna do. It can’t be a case of ‘Well, for Friday night’s football game, the home school, we’re going to start selling tickets on Tuesday, and we sell all 1,000 of them, well none of the visiting fans get in,’” Uyl said. “If you do presale, you’ve gotta offer tickets to both schools, and then anything that’s unsold, or if you want to sell all your tickets at the gate, then those will be on a first-come, first-served basis.”

The executive director said he didn’t have any reason for why the new limits didn’t go into effect for two weeks from the issue of the EO, but was just glad for them to have changed.

“I do think some of the concerns we heard from marching band students, or students that were involved in dance or pom, that for us to stay within that two spectator per participant, those were some groups that had to be excluded for the first few weeks. We think that those concerns were heard by those down at the capitol,” Uyl said. “We’ve gotta wait one more week, but the good news is that for the last three weeks of the regular season — and then we anticipate going into the football playoffs — having those limits increased to 1,000 just gives schools so much more options.”



• MHSAA offers guidance on Governor’s new mask Executive Order: ‘It is the MHSAA’s expectation that all members comply’ (Sept. 10)

MASK UP: Gov. Whitmer clarifies mask requirement for fall sports with EO requiring them for volleyball, soccer and football (Sept. 9)

Reversed field: MHSAA will indeed play football this fall, with shortened regular season (Sept. 3)

Gov. Whitmer allows of reopening of gyms and pools next week; MHSAA to play football despite MDHHS recommendation against contact sports (Sept. 3)

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer says decision on reopening gyms, indoor athletic facilities coming ‘very soon’ (Sept. 2)

Still awaiting answers from governor’s office on fate of fall sports in limbo, MHSAA admits ‘the clock is ticking’ (Aug. 26)

MHSAA adds offseason football practice dates, hopes to have spring season set-up settled by mid-September (Aug. 20)

MHSAA approves start of competition for volleyball, boys soccer, girls swimming in two regions; rest of state still awaiting clarification from governor’s office (Aug. 20)

Announcement from MHSAA on fate of volleyball, swimming and soccer postponed (Aug. 19)

• MHSAA’s Uyl explains decision to postpone football: ‘What we were getting from our schools … was really to pump the brakes’  (Aug. 17)

MHSAA pulls plug on fall football, announcing decision to move it to the spring (Aug. 14)

College cancellations won’t force MHSAA’s hand, executive director Mark Uyl says; ‘Don’t make decisions just because somebody else did’ (Aug. 12)

Lansing School District cancels fall extracurricular activities, including athletics (Aug. 7)

MHSAA Representative Council gives thumbs-up to on-time start for lower-risk fall sports, tables decision on competition for high-risk sports (July 29)

• MHSAA announces plan to begin 2020-21 school year as traditionally scheduled, leaving football (for now) in the fall (July 17)

• For now, plan is still to have fall sports in the fall, MHSAA reassures its membership (July 2)

What does the ‘MI Safe Schools’ return to school roadmap say about high school sports? Here’s a look (July 1)

Gov. Whitmer to MHSAA: Consider moving contact sports back from the fall (June 30)

• New allowance from from governor’s office doesn’t change much: Schools allowed to resume sports activities prior to end of 2019-20 school year (June 12)

• MHSAA updates guidelines, allowing northern Michigan schools to move workouts indoors starting Wednesday (June 9)

• MHSAA adjusts to curveball of early lifting of stay-at-home order, amends guidance doc for reopening sports  (June 2)

• Gov. Whitmer lifts stay-at-home order early, providing increasing clarity on ‘when’ high school sports can resume (June 1)

• MHSAA releases ‘Guidance for Opening School Sports’ document, outlining a roadmap of ‘how’ high school sports can resume in Michigan (May 29)

• Friday’s roadmap from MHSAA will give ‘how’ school athletics will return, but maybe not ‘when’: ‘We still can’t rush this’ (May 28)

• MHSAA gives schools heads up that ‘Guidance for Opening School Sports’ is coming next week (May 22)

• Q&A with MHSAA executive director Mark Uyl, after Friday’s decision to cancel remaining 2019-20 sports seasons (April 3)

• MHSAA executive director Mark Uyl explains agonizing decision to cancel remainder of winter and spring seasons; ‘My heart absolutely breaks for kids in the class of 2020’ (April 3)

• MHSAA officially cancels spring and winter sports, putting an end to the 2019-20 athletic year (April 3)

• Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announces closure of Michigan schools for remainder of 2019-20, stipulates K-12 sports are suspended ‘while state of emergency … is in effect’ (April 2)

• With Gov. Whitmer reportedly set to close Michigan schools for remainder of academic year, can cancellation of high school sports be far behind?  (March 30)

• ‘What now?’ and ‘What next?’: A look at how Michigan’s prep athletes are coping with the ‘pause’ of the postseason, and what it might theoretically take to ‘unpause’ (March 17)

• MHSAA extends halt of athletic activities to include practices, scrimmages until at least April 5(March 13)

• MHSAA puts postseason on pause due to concerns over COVID-19 (March 12)

• UPDATED: MHSAA postseasons impacted by coronavirus; games put on pause, postponed indefinitely (March 11)