Winter contact sports finally starts

REED CITY – Winter sports coaches were ready to go last week in what they hope is a short, but sweet season.

Basketball, hockey, cheer and wrestling teams were able to have competition this week after being shut down since Nov. 16.

Michigan High School executive director Mark Uyl pointed out although regular seasons are short—six weeks for basketball, for instance—teams still have options for maximizing playing opportunities.

Basketball teams, from Monday through Sunday, can play up to three games per week.

“They have six weeks to play before the districts start,” Uyl said in his press conference on Feb. 4. “If they maximize their number of games per week, that’s 18 games. Remember, we’re also giving our basketball teams, over the remaining three weeks of the (postseason tournament) that once they’re beaten in the district or regional level, they’re able to play those last two regular-season games all the way up to the finals.

“So we are staying with the three-game per week limitation in basketball. As I said, before district week gets here, a basketball team could play 18 games of their 20 allowable regular season games. Don’t forget during the fall, our football kids only were able to get in six regular season games. The truth be told, we’re actually quite pleased with what we’re able to give our basketball teams.”

On venues for state title games, Uyl expressed confidence both boys and girls basketball could have them held at Michigan State’s Breslin Center. Negotiations are being made with other venues for other sports.

Uyl said he’s not aware of any schools that have opted out of winter sports so far.

“What’s really important is we’re getting a chance to get these sports all started (last) week and that is what we’re looking forward to,” Uyl said. “We’re grateful to every body who allowed their voices to be heard.”

Uyl was asked how the pandemic has impacted the MHSAA financially.

“We’re hanging in there,” he replied. “Certainly much of our revenue in a normal year is ticket revenue at our tournament events. Whenever you’re limiting spectators, that creates some real challenges.

“We need to be very creative. Even with limited crowds in the fall, we actually did very well, as well as we could have hoped. Our schools really came through for us. We reimbursed all the tournament sites for official fees. All of our money is generated through sponsorships, ticket sales, those type of things. We receive no tax dollars.”

Uyl said he remains confident in having spring sports, based on the experience with fall sports. Spring sports are outdoors and crowd gatherings tend to be small. He said he would get input from schools on how they’re able to handle the overlap between the ending of winter sports and the start of spring, which is March 15, for now

“Spring sports will begin in March, it’s just a matter of if it will be the 15th or a few more days later,” Uyl said.

The only contact sports in the spring are boys lacrosse and girls soccer.

Uyl was asked about a concern of an officials’ shortage.

“There’s always a need for more officials, and that doesn’t go away during a pandemic,” he said. “Schools will be creative with their scheduling.”

He indicated using the same officials for a doubleheader or going down to two officials rather than three in some cases, are possible solutions.