The MHSAA announced Friday morning that member schools will start the 2020-21 school year playing fall sports as usual, with contingency plans in place if needed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The announcement was not a surprise given comments made by MHSAA executive director Mark Uyl on the radio program The Huge Show earlier this week. Uyl emphasized that after hearing feedback from all invested parties, the MHSAA was determined to take every measure necessary to complete fall, winter and spring seasons.

“What we have heard, over and over again, from schools, from parents and most importantly from kids, we are willing to do whatever it takes to get our seasons in,” Uyl said on the show. “I never want to look at a senior class of kids again that have to go without a season like kids this past (spring) had to.”

With the status of sports — and indeed school in general — still up in the air, the MHSAA said in the press release that it will prepare for the possibility of fall sports being delayed. Another part of the plan accounts for the possibility of higher-risk fall sports (football, volleyball and boys soccer) being postponed until later in the school year while lower-risk sports (golf, cross-country and tennis) are permitted to play.

The MHSAA said it’s prepared to extend the academic year of competition into July 2021 if necessary to complete all three seasons.

“If all fall sports must be suspended, they will be rescheduled during a reconfigured calendar that would see winter sports begin in November followed by the conclusion of fall and spring seasons potentially extending into July 2021,” the MHSAA said in the release.

The organization considered a suggestion made by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to swap the fall and spring seasons, but determined that to be unfeasible because a couple of spring sports, namely lacrosse and girls soccer, carry similarly high risk of COVID-19 transmission. Partial season swaps were ruled out to prevent multi-sport athletes from potentially having to choose between sports.

“Our student-athletes just want to play, and we’ve gone far too long without them playing. But doing so safely, of course, remains the priority,” Uyl said in the release. “Our plan moving forward is fall in the fall, starting on time. We’re excited to continue moving forward to bring back sports safely. It’s important for keeping students in our schools and keeping students in our sports programs.

“We will continue to support (Gov. Whitmer’s) directives and those of the state and local health departments as we work to create the safest environment for all involved in our activities.”

The MHSAA added that it is working on safety policies for fall sports and would make them available to member schools as the fall season approaches.