• Michigan

Reversed field: MHSAA will indeed play football this fall, with shortened regular season

By: MATTHEW B. MOWERY, September 3, 2020, 4:02 pm

Against the strong recommendation of the MDHHS to not play contact sports, the Michigan High School Athletic Association has reversed field and will put on the pads this fall. 

After Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s announcement Thursday of the reopening of indoor athletic facilities for organized sports — which included a recommendation against, but not a prohibition of contact sports — the MHSAA announced that its Representative Council had voted to reinstate football in the fall. 

Just 20 days after voting to push football back from the fall to the spring over concerns about the spread of COVID-19, the MHSAA — beleaguered by critics on all sides — football is back on. 

Practices may resume Tuesday in preparation for a six-week regular season beginning on Sept. 18 — and picking up with Week 4 of teams’ established schedules — with every team in the state making the playoffs, which will culminate in the finals on Nov. 27-28 (8-player) and Dec. 4-5 (11-player). 

“Thirty three other states are currently participating in all fall sports, and the MHSAA and its member schools are committed to doing this as safely as possible,” MHSAA executive director Mark Uyl said in a news release. “We are ready to again provide those experiences to students and communities that have hoped for a return of some normalcy. Given the challenges of online education in many school districts across the state, providing sports and a daily routine may be more important than ever in motivating students and providing a safe outlet for physical activity, competition and socialization.”

Gov. Whitmer’s announcement Thursday came with two executive orders — No. 175 and 176 — which allowed for the reopening of indoor athletic facilities, including gymnasiums, bowling alleys and pools, for the purpose of organized sports. 

That cleared the field for the remaining sports that had been in limbo, but the question of football remained, since the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services strongly recommended against the resumption of contact sports — but it was not prohibited. 

“Individuals can now choose whether or not to play organized sports, and if they do choose to play, this order requires strict safety measures to reduce risk,” MDHHS chief medical executive Joneigh Khaldun said in the governor’s news release.

“However, we know of 30 reported outbreaks involving athletic teams and facilities in August. Based on current data, contact sports create a high risk of COVID-19 transmission, and MDHHS strongly recommends against participating in them at this time. We are not out of the woods yet. COVID-19 is still a very real threat to our families.”

Given the level of pushback from around the state at the original decision to postpone football, it was not surprising that the MHSAA quickly reversed field.

“We are thankful for the opportunity for kids to get back on the field in all fall sports, and we appreciate Governor Whitmer providing that opportunity with Executive Order 176 ,” Uyl said. “We share the Governor’s priorities of putting health and safety first, and the COVID-19 guidance and protocols designed by the MHSAA at her request have led to the safe starts in all sports across the state.”

Spectators are limited to two per participant for both indoor and outdoor competitions in those regions still in Phase 4 (1-5 and 7), while the limits remain at 250 for indoor competitions and 500 for outdoor competitions in Regions 6 and 8.

According to the MHSAA, the new EO also stipulates that “a facial covering is worn except when swimming,” but the association is seeking further guidance on the extent of that stipulation. The MHSAA’s announcement Thursday noted that schools which had opted out of fall sports can group up and play fall sports later in the school year, but the association will only be offering championships in the fall.



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)