The addition of seeding at the regional level in ice hockey, and adjustments to provide byes for top-seeded teams in basketball and soccer, were among the most notable actions taken by the Representative Council of the Michigan High School Athletic Association during its annual Spring Meeting on May 4.
The Spring Meeting of the 19-member legislative body of the Association’s more than 1,500 member schools is generally the busiest of its three sessions each year. The Council considered 32 committee proposals and dealt with a variety of eligibility rule, postseason tournament and operational issues. As with the Council’s Winter Meeting in March, the Spring Meeting was conducted remotely to keep with social distancing required by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Beginning with the 2020-21 school year, ice hockey will employ a seeding process to place the top two teams in every Regional on opposite sides of that bracket, guaranteeing those two teams could not play each other before the Regional championship game. The two teams are to be seeded in each Regional using the Michigan Power Rating computer formula based on regular-season results against other MHSAA Tournament-eligible teams and opponents’ strength of schedule, the same system used in basketball and soccer. (Games against out-of-state or non-MHSAA opponents do not count in the MPR formula.) The MHSAA will draw all ice hockey brackets 15 days before the start of Regional play. The addition of hockey seeding was proposed by the MHSAA Hockey Committee.
The Council also adopted a change to seeding to take effect for hockey, basketball and soccer to provide any existing byes to the #1, and then #2 seed, in that order, if multiple byes are part of a bracket. The draw process then will continue to place the remaining teams on the bracket based on a randomly-selected order determined earlier in the season.
Similar rules changes in football and basketball approved by the Council and recommended by the MHSAA committees for those respective sports aim 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. In basketball, an athlete may compete in up to five quarters per day, during no more than three dates per week and 20 dates per team or individual. Both changes will allow athletes to contribute to both varsity and subvarsity teams simultaneously, potentially bolstering numbers and opportunities to retain those squads.
The Council also took action on a number of MHSAA Handbook regulations requiring adjustment because of the COVID-19 pandemic and disruption it has caused to Michigan high school athletics. Notably, the Council voted to waive the 2020-21 pre-participation physical exam requirement for athletes who received one during the 2019-20 school year, although they are still required to fill out and sign the MHSAA Annual Sports Health Questionnaire. The Council also authorized schools to make decisions on multiple summer matters, including an opportunity for athletic directors to request a waiver from the MHSAA to wear school competition uniforms during events that are school-sponsored and designed to recognize graduating 12th-graders. Additionally, the Council voted to give schools the opportunity to waive the annually-required week-long period of no summer activity, if they choose to do so.
Here is a summary of other notable actions taken by the Representative Council at the Spring Meeting, which will take effect during the 2020-21 school year unless noted. Additionally, three sport changes were approved by the Council during its Winter meeting in March and not yet publicized; those too are noted below.
• In baseball, the Council approved a Baseball Committee recommendation to adopt a suspended-game policy stating that any game called before it reaches regulation, or when the score is tied, is suspended with play to pick up at a later time from that point. However, if both schools agree, a game called prior to regulation may be replayed in its entirety.
• In football, the Council approved 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 employed only during the second half. The 35-point running clock employed 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.
• Also in football, the Council approved a Committee recommendation 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.