MHSAA taking look at spring football

Evart, Reed City and Pine River football teams hope to be playing in the fall but the MHSAA is looking at the spring season option in light of the ongoing COVID pandemic. (Herald file photo)

Evart, Reed City and Pine River football teams hope to be playing in the fall but the MHSAA is looking at the spring season option in light of the ongoing COVID pandemic. (Herald file photo)

REED CITY - Gov. Gretchen Whitmer suggested last week the Michigan High School Athletic Association seriously consider having football next spring instead of this fall because of COVID-19.

It's apparently already under consideration by the MHSAA, which has said it will announce sometime after July 20 what it has planned for fall sports.

Since the sports season was closed in April, the MHSAA gradually has been allowing sports teams to have some type of conditioning activity, as long as social distancing is utilized. Fall sports are scheduled to begin practices in early August and in the meantime, teams are working on conditioning drills.

"As of (Wednesday), we are proceeding with fall sports this fall," MHSAA spokesman Geoff Kimmerly said. "But if the situation dictates we need to make some changes to have sports at all this fall, switching all of spring for all of fall sports absolutely is a possibility. We aren't ready to make that switch today, but we will announce either adjustments to fall sports with more precautions - or a possible season switch - during the third week of July or soon after.

"We plan on having a few similar contingencies ready in case fall sports won't be safe for this fall. For example, we could start sports in the fall and have to stop again - but will have a plan to pick them back up later. Whatever we do, we will be in lockstep with the Governor's office and the state health department, as we've been since this started in March."

Area athletic directors and coaches gave their reactions to Kimmerly's comments.

"My feelings are that we should keep the seasons the same and make adjustments as needed," Pine River's Shawn Ruppert said. "As an AD and baseball coach, what I don't want to see happen is spring sports get switched to this fall and then have them cancel the fall season or cut it short. The spring sports kids would then lose two seasons in a row which would be disastrous for them and those programs.

"I also question the ability to get a full football season in during the spring. By the time you have the mandatory practice dates and try to play a nine-game season, there is not a lot of time left for playoffs without going well into the summer. It would also be very tough on our football field; ours is very wet in the spring."

Evart football coach Pat Craven is hopeful some type of workable solution can be reached.

"This spring switch has been a possibility for months although it is widely regarded as a 'last effort' approach," Craven said. "So the concept is not new to coaches and athletic directors. I do wish the governor would be a bit more calculated in her responses because something viewed as a last effort is sure causing a huge public outcry right now.

"I trust the MHSAA and our ADs, along with our association, will do all they can to provide these impactful educational experiences for our kids and do it in a safe and positive way."

Reed City athletic director Kris Griffin agreed.

"We are anxious to see what these next few weeks will tell us," she said. "Our coaches are aware of several scenarios and we will respond accordingly. At this point, the decisions are out of our control. We are cautiously optimistic that fall sports will be played in the fall. We have had a good number of kids attending summer workouts, and they are ready."