CBS Detroit – In a recent decision that would allow gyms and fitness centers to open on September 9th, high school football is being allowed to start on September 17th. While the order allows for organized sports to begin, Governor Whitmer said that from data from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, she would advise contact sports not to be played. However, according to reports by Hometown Life and the Detroit Free Press, there is no prohibition in place.
So the Michigan High School Athletic Association Representative Council voted Thursday to allow all sports to begin. Along with high school football, boys soccer, and girls swimming and diving is scheduled to begin next Wednesday according to the Detroit Free Press.
Governor Whitmer said at a press conference, “As we begin to start organized sports back up again, I urge school districts and athletic associations to do everything in their power to protect players, coaches, and staff. That means carefully following the guidelines released today by DHHS,”.
MHSAA executive director Mark Uyl told the Free Press, “You’re seeing states, whose COVID-19 numbers are far worse than Michigan’s. It has been, nationwide, a very successful start to the year.” Uyl also said that 25 states are practicing and playing games, and another eight states will be ready to start in a couple of days, things are different now than just three weeks ago.
For high school football, padded practices are scheduled to start next week. Games for 11-player and 8-player football are slated to start with week four schedule on September 17th. With these changes, however, there will be limitations that will affect the amount of fans allowed in the stands. The governor has said crowd sizes must be limited, and people must wear masks and social distance.
The MHSAA plans on each player to get two-tickets. Those will be the only people allowed to watch. According to Uyl, “It would at least allow mom and dad to be there,”. While he acknowledges it may not work for everyone, “…at least this is a starting point. Letting two in per participant is going to keep a lot of football moms happy.” The MHSAA also plans on televising more games as well.
The MHSAA plan is to pick up the existing schedule with Week 4 and play a six-game regular season starting September 17th. Then every team will be included in the state playoffs in week 10. With Mark Uyl saying, “We wanted to take any gamesmanship completely off the table so with everybody in it guarantees everyone a seventh game,” Uyl said. “To be honest, I’m not sure we could do much better next spring. Especially for our northern schools, this is still a far better approach. It’s a little more of a gamble in the spring.”
Uyl says the virus isn’t going away, and what is living in is part of the new normal. “We have to be able to take positive cases and handle them appropriately and still figure out a way that we can continue to educate kids and continue to allow kids to play and do all those things,” said Uyl. When cases of people testing positive with COVID-19, that would be handled at a local level, working with the local health department to determine contact tracing and other needed measures.
Some school districts like Lansing, Okemos, and Warren have canceled all fall sports, so some teams may have to find other games to play as the season goes on. However, with the everyone-in format, this shouldn’t be much of an issue Uyl says, “Really, for the first time, there will be no downside of going out and scheduling somebody really, really tough.”.
Uyl says after speaking to his peers in other states, it would appear football hasn’t been the case in spiking a rise in COVID-19 numbers. Saying that cases around volleyball seem to be more the case than football. He thinks playing outdoors seems to be the factor there. The uncertainty Uyl said is “what lies ahead in the winter”.
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