Michigan high school football, other fall sports allowed to begin competition

MHSAA allows all fall sports competitions to continue despite recommendations against contact sports
Published: Sep. 3, 2020 at 4:23 PM EDT
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LANSING, Mich. (WJRT) - The Michigan high school football season is back on for this fall.

The Michigan High School Athletic Association approved the return of all fall sports on Thursday after Gov. Gretchen Whitmer issued orders clearing the way for competitions. That includes football, boys’ soccer, volleyball and swimming/diving.

Football teams can begin practicing in helmets and shoulder pads on Tuesday, then full pads on Thursday. The season will officially kick off on Sept. 17 and 18. Soccer games can start immediately, swimming/diving meets and volleyball games can start next Wednesday.

The football championship games will be played Nov. 27 and 28 for eight-player teams and Dec. 4 and 5 for 11-player teams. Those championships will not be held at Ford Field like usual, but this season every team will qualify for the playoffs.

“We share the Governor’s priorities of putting health and safety first, and the COVID-19 guidance and protocols designed by the MHSAA at her request have led to the safe starts in all sports across the state,” said MHSAA Executive Director Mark Uyl.

He pointed out that high school sports in 33 other states are continuing as planned this fall.

“We are ready to again provide those experiences to students and communities that have hoped for a return of some normalcy,” Uyl said. “Given the challenges of online education in many school districts across the state, providing sports and a daily routine may be more important than ever in motivating students and providing a safe outlet for physical activity, competition and socialization.”

The Michigan State Youth Soccer Association plans to continue activities for its 90,000 players and 11,000 officials, according to Executive Director Thomas Faro.

However, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services issued a separate statement strongly recommending against contact sports, including football and soccer, due to the risk of spreading coronavirus.

Documents from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services recommend against activities that involve “shouting, singing, or breathing forcefully” both indoors and outdoors. The agency noted there have been 30 coronavirus outbreaks statewide linked to sports teams and facilities.

“Based on current data, contact sports create a high risk of COVID-19 transmission and MDHHS strongly recommends against participating in them at this time,” said Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, Michigan’s chief medical executive. “We are not out of the woods yet. COVID-19 is still a very real threat to our families.”

Whitmer allowed indoor gyms, fitness centers and pools to reopen beginning next Wednesday. But bowling alleys, rinks and theaters remain closed to the general public.

The MHSAA previously decided to postpone the football season until spring, but had a change of heart earlier this week and decided to advocate for playing football this fall if Whitmer would allow it.

Attendance at indoor and outdoor athletic competitions remains limited. For indoor sports like volleyball and swimming/diving, only two spectators per athlete are allow inside with requirements for social distancing and wearing face coverings indoors.

For outdoor sports like football and soccer, attendance is limited to two spectators per athlete and fewer than 100 people per event -- including athletes and coaches.

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services offered the following recommendations for all sports competitors to prevent the spread of coronavirus:

  • Frequent hand washing.
  • Not letting players share towels, clothing, or other items they use to wipe their faces or hands.
  • Ensuring proper cleaning and disinfection of objects and equipment.
  • Prioritizing outdoor practice.

“As we begin to start organized sports back up again, I urge school districts and athletic associations to do everything in their power to protect players, coaches, and staff,” Whitmer said.

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