BALDWIN - The Michigan High School Athletic Association made some key rule changes on football at its recent representative council meeting and Baldwin coach Robert Watkins offered his thoughts.

Rules changes in football approved by the Council and recommended by the MHSAA committee for the sport was aimed to create more opportunities, especially for programs struggling to field teams at multiple levels.

In football, while an athlete may still play only four quarters in one day, that athlete may play in up to five quarters per week. The change will allow athletes to contribute to both varsity and subvarsity teams simultaneously, potentially bolstering numbers and opportunities to retain those squads.

"I think it's a good concept, especially if you're dealing with small numbers," Watkins said. "We ran into this last year. We had to decide if we'd have a varsity or JV season. We had some freshmen and sophomores who couldn't play varsity and some who could go either way. We ended going to varsity because we had more of the upperclassmen.

"If your school is fortunate enough to have both varsity and JV it's a great concept. If you don't have the numbers, it doesn't matter because you'll only have one team."

The Council OKed a Football Committee recommendation extending the running clock when a team leads its opponent by 50 points to both the first and second halves of a game; the 50-point running clock stops only for player injuries and previously was used only during the second half. The 35-point running clock used during the second half, with stoppages also for penalty enforcement, scoring plays and called timeouts, will remain in effect if the differential dips below 50 and until it reaches 50 points again.

"We've been on both ends of the spectrum," Watkins said. "Every time we played last year and the year before, the first quarter we matched well with anybody. If you don't' have the numbers, we start seeing fatigue set in. The only bad thing for the team with numbers is you have to figure out when you can get your kids in."

The council also approved allowing schools 15 summer dates of non-mandatory contact with an unlimited number of players (wearing helmets only). Schools may use these dates as they see fit, but of these 15 only seven dates may be used for 7-on-7 competition against other teams. This also eliminates the previous allowance for a camp.

"It all depends on your numbers," Watkins said. "If your team is large enough, this would be a benefit. If not, all you end up doing is using those days to give them extra opportunities so by the time the season starts the first of August, everybody will just roll right in.

"Anything they're doing is geared toward safety. When you so something for the safety of the kids, I'm all for it."