MHSAA moves football to spring



EAST LANSING - The Representative Council of the Michigan High School Athletic Association on Friday announced it will move the 2020 fall football season to spring 2021, due to football's higher risk for spreading COVID-19, with the rest of fall sports proceeding as scheduled.

"The football season switch was made based on consultation with state health department officials and after surveying MHSAA member high schools on their progress and preferences after the first four days of practice," the MHSAA said in its announcement. "Football is considered a high-risk sport for potential spread of the COVID-19 virus because of its level of player-to-player contact."

The MHSAA said on July 17 it would proceed this school year with its traditional calendar beginning with fall sports but would have enhanced precautions to help limit the spread of COVID-19.

Volleyball, boys soccer and Lower Peninsula girls swimming and diving also began practice Aug. 12, and competition guidelines for those sports will be announced Aug. 19.

Schools in regions under Phase 4 of the MI Safe Start Plan, including Mecosta and Osceola counties, remain unable to play volleyball or swim/dive indoors due to governmental restrictions.

Governor Gretchen Whitmer's office is expected in the near future to make determinations regarding these indoor facilities.

Details for the spring football season including a specific schedule and format will be announced over the next few months, the MHSAA said in its release, adding it will work to limit overlap of spring football and the traditional spring sport seasons.

But Pine River athletic director Shawn Ruppert, who is also baseball coach, isn't all that sure about a football spring season.

"I am not in favor of this," he said. "For small schools that have, and rely on, multi-sport athletes to fill their teams, it will make it difficult to fill all of their teams. Let's wait and see what they come up with. I'm guessing they will end up shortening the football season when it does happen and the traditional spring sports will be shorter and later.

"While this is tremendously disappointing, we will do everything possible to provide the best possible experience in the spring while adding football into the calendar," Uyl said in his statement.

"We obviously are very sad for our football kids and staff," Reed City athletic director Kris Griffin said. "They are pretty devastated and fearful that spring 2021 may not happen. Our kids were together when Coach Shankel told them. We will be as supportive as possible.

"We will remain hopeful that our other fall sports continue."