MHSAA strongly hints winter sports would end by late March

Girls and boys basketball seasons are likely to be shorter this winter. (Star file photo)

Girls and boys basketball seasons are likely to be shorter this winter. (Star file photo)

REED CITY – It appears the Michigan High School Athletic Association has no intent to move the spring sports season from its present calendar as it mulls what to do about the winter sports schedule.

In his virtual press conference on Friday to reporters, MSHAA executive director Mark Uyl announced plans to finish the fall sports schedule for football, volleyball and girls swimming.

He also indicated winter sports are set to happen after the current lockdown ends in mid January. But he added those winter sports, which include basketball, wrestling, cheerleading, bowling and hockey, would end in March.

The intent is spring sports would have April, May and early June all to themselves.

On Wednesday of this week, the MHSAA was set to take another look at the fall playoff schedule and perhaps announce something on winter schedules.

“The first time we saw the new order was today,” Uyl said on Friday. “We need to take some time and see how it impacts our winter sports. We’ve identified the first day they can practice which right now is Jan. 16. If that becomes earlier, we certainly will do that. We need to look at our tournament calendar. We want to try and end as many sports as we can in late March as possible to give our winter teams as many weeks in the season as we possibly can.

“Also, we’re looking at the number of games that might be allowed in a week and be creative with that. We may even allow a basketball team or hockey team to play more than one game in a day; or possibly a Saturday or Sunday. Those are things we’ll work through over the weekend and early into next week so we have those winter sports details ready to share by the end of the day Tuesday.”

The possibility of having more winter sports ending in late March will be carefully examined, Uyl said. Under a normal year some sports would end in early March and others from mid-March to late March.

“We’ll start looking at the last two weekends in March to see how many events we can put on those weekends, knowing if there’s no spectators, you have to be able to broadcast and stream all of your events to have crews and staffing to do it and do it well, so those who can’t attend will have access.

“Those will be details we’ll release (this week).”

Uyl was asked about an overlap between the end of winter sports and the start of spring sports.

“By the nature of where spring break always falls for our school, if we were able to get started in mid-January and finish up our winter tournaments by the end of March, I think the overlap with spring and winter sports wouldn’t be that much different as it is in a normal year,” he said. “The challenge of moving anything from late March into early or mid-April is you come across several challenges with having different spring breaks. So if we can get winter practice and competitions started in mid-January or earlier, I think we can finish in late March, which would leave spring sports unaffected.”

Uyl was asked about the suggestion of pushing winter sports conclusions into April and moving spring sports endings into mid-July.

“I think there’s very little support for that,” he said. “We’ve heard loud and clear from our spring sports communities that there’s no interest in moving into July. If we can get winter started in mid-January, most of our winter sports on the calendar are looking at a five to six-week or even in a few cases a seven-week regular season followed by a two- or three-week tournament season.

“From where we were all sitting three weeks ago, we’re able to give them a very rich experience. That’s our current plan. As things change and evolve, we have to learn to change and evolve with them.”

Safety protocols are likely to remain unchanged.

“All of the practices that have been required remain in place,” Uyl said, referring to such aspects as temperature checks, face masks and social distancing.

The rapid testing requirement is the key for athletes to be able to participate in sports, Uyl pointed out.

“If any individual students or teams refuse to be a part of this rapid testing requirement, they would not be able to participate in our tournament,” he said. “Under the current order, that’s what Human and Health Services would be requiring.”

Uyl said having no spectators continues to be a part of the Human and Health Services order.

“It’s just like the Lions, they’re playing in an empty building and the same would be applied to our fall tournaments,” Uyl said.

He was asked why an indoor sport like volleyball can play right now but not winter indoor sports.

“What I gathered from the Governor’s comments is they are looking at mid-January as the time to restart a lot of what we consider to be our winter activities,” Uyl said. “We’ve been making the argument for all of our indoor sports that we’ve collected data we got from other states and we believe those activities can be done and be done safely. But it appears Jan. 15 is the target date the governor and other state leaders for a lot of these winter activities. Sports is included in that.

“All of our indoor winter sports is a part of that group. We did not have any control or input on how those sports would be put into various different categories. If we continue to do the right things and the numbers improve, hopefully we can see those restrictions end earlier and our winter teams can get back in being active as soon as possible.”

Uyl suggested to athletic directors, working on their winter basketball schedules, to keep the dates they have for when the season resumes…and similar to football, swap some late season nonleague contest for conference games as would be necessary.