Effective today, Governor Whitmer’s Executive Order 176 has removed the previously imposed restrictions on all sports, including football. With this new order, information has emerged over the past three weeks bringing more clarity to football across the country.
Here is what has changed since August 14:
- Executive Order 176 now allows all sports, including football, to move forward and be administered by MHSAA member schools.
- Twenty-five other states started football practices and games safely and successfully in early August with another eight states scheduled to begin fall football practice soon.
- The Big Ten is exploring a fall season start that could begin as early as October or November.
- MHSAA member schools reported a successful football acclimatization week from August 10-14. Executive Order 160 prevented consideration to move to the next phased-in steps of padded practices and games.
- Member schools have reported successful starts to fall sports in cross country, golf, tennis, soccer, swimming & diving and volleyball over the past three weeks. When positive COVID cases have been identified, they have been handled safely and appropriately by the involved schools working with health department officials. This process is part of our new reality in returning to schools and sports in the time of COVID.
- MHSAA COVID guidance and safety protocols are among the best in the nation. We have safe plans in place, created in partnership with the National Federation (NFHS) and the Sports Medicine Advisory Committees (SMAC) of both the MHSAA and NFHS, to minimize as much risk as possible.
- Numerous non-school football opportunities have emerged over the past 14 days, proving that kids would have been playing football this fall. From the outset, we have said that we believe student-athletes are safest in our school-based programs led by educators.
- All of us share the fundamental belief that we must protect the health and safety of individuals first. This includes not only COVID prevention measures, but also the mental health of teenage students and adults as well. Many recent studies and publications surmise that the greatest health and safety risk currently is mental health. The opportunity to participate in fall sports will provide countless benefits for the mental health of our students.
- For many kids, sports is the most significant motivating factor to keep them in school and progressing toward graduation. Given additional challenges of online education, sports and the daily routine they bring is perhaps more important now than ever before.
Because of these factors, the MHSAA Representative Council approved restarting the fall football season on Tuesday, September 8 and will conduct a fall football tournament for schools that wish to participate.
- Fall schools will have two days of practice in “shells” (helmets and shoulder pads, only) beginning on September 8 followed by fully padded practice after those two days of “shells” practice.
- From September 3-7, it is a dead period for football activity with nothing allowed involving football students and coaches other than the issuing of equipment.
- The competition season will consist of six regular season games beginning the Thursday-Saturday of September 17-19. Scheduling for U.P. teams is currently being worked on with all U.P. schools to ensure that all schools are able to procure their desired number of regular season games. Schedules will be updated and posted as soon as they are established.
- Once the MHSAA has determined the number of schools participating in fall football, the postseason tournament will be organized placing all teams in the first round of the playoffs on October 30-31, guaranteeing all fall participating schools at least seven available varsity contest dates.
- The previously permitted 16 allowed days of voluntary coach-player contact for spring sports will no longer be occurring now that spring sport season dates for the 2020-21 academic year will not be altered.
The nature of this pandemic since March has been fluid and ever-changing. Today’s information is yet another example of this fact. We are pleased that fall sport plans are finalized and we all can move forward based on this new Executive Order as well as action taken by the MHSAA Representative Council. We fully realize that any decision made during COVID will likely result in some criticism and opposition. We will continue to communicate and lead during these times, and we are here to help and assist all students/families with the path forward.