Basketball, wrestling and competitive cheer’s wait to get on the court and the mat will continue through January after the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) announced last Wednesday that it was extending the statewide sports pause 16 more days, through Jan. 31.
The pause, which also continues the ban on in-person dining, as well as nightclubs and water parks, was scheduled to end Jan. 16. High school basketball games were scheduled to begin as soon as Jan. 22.
Because they are not contact sports, gymnastics, bowling and swimming and diving may begin competition as currently scheduled. All other sports — basketball, wrestling, hockey and competitive cheer — could begin non-contact practices on Saturday, Jan. 16, but cannot play until at least Feb. 1.
“We are glad to have three more sports join skiing in returning to full activity, but we understand the disappointment and frustration on the part of our athletes and coaches whose sports are not yet able to restart completely,” MHSAA executive director Mark Uyl said in a press release. “We will continue to adjust schedules to provide all of our winter teams as substantial an experience this season as possible, as part of our greater plan this school year to play all three seasons to conclusion.
“We have shown with our remaining fall sports this month that our schools can participate safely, and we’re confident teams will continue to take all the appropriate precautions as we jump back into indoor winter activities.”
The pause, which began back in November, seems to have had the effect intended, as COVID-19 case rates continuously declined from Nov. 14 through Christmas. There has been a slight increase since then, with cases up to 266 per million people as of last Wednesday after hitting a low of 239. Positive test rates declined to 8.1 percent on Dec. 28 and have also since risen slightly, to 9.1 percent.
The MHSAA additionally announced Thursday that it’s revised the tournament schedule for most winter sports to account for the pause’s extension. The new schedule is, of course, contingent on the pause not being extended past Jan. 31.
Most notably, boys and girls basketball tournaments will be moved back exactly two weeks from their previous spots on the calendar. The tournaments will still be held concurrently, as previously scheduled. The district tournaments will be held the week of March 22-28, with regional tournaments the following week and the final three rounds the week after that. Girls finals are set for April 9, with the boys playing the following day.
All other team tournaments will be completed in March; the only other event in April will be the individual wrestling finals on April 2-3. Wrestling districts (team and individual) will be held from March 15-20, with regionals the week after and team finals the next week, on March 31. Competitive cheer and hockey will follow similar schedules, with finals in both those sports on March 27.
Hockey may begin competition on Feb. 1, basketball on Feb. 4, and wrestling and cheer on Feb. 8.
The MHSAA also said that spring sports dates will not be moved. Practices remain on course to begin March 15. Some overlap between winter and spring sports is inevitable under this schedule, the MHSAA said, but the majority of teams in the state will complete their seasons before the first spring competition.