Fall sports seasons will begin in Michigan as traditionally scheduled, but the MHSAA announced contingency plans Friday if there are interruptions due to COVID-19.
High school football practices are scheduled to begin Aug. 10 with all other fall sports starting Aug. 12.
“We are super excited to hear the news,” said Dearborn Fordson football coach Walker Zaban told The Detroit News. “We appreciate all the time and hard work the MHSAA has put into maintaining a season for all fall sports, not just football.”
Like Zaban, Detroit Cass Tech football coach Thomas Wilcher was also pleased to hear the MHSAA gave the go-ahead for fall sports. But he’s also determined to proceed with caution.
“I think it’s great that we’re going to have an opportunity to play this season, but I also think whatever is necessary for us to stay safe during this climate of change … we need to take whatever precautions that need to be taken,” Wilcher told The News.
“The most important thing we do when we see our kids come out and play is that we mostly want our kids to be safe and live a healthy life and do not have any illness that will affect them in the long term.”
The MHSAA said it is possible that, if there are COVID-related developments, lower-risk fall sports could continue while higher-risk fall sports are postponed until later in the school year.
Football, girls volleyball, girls swimming and boys soccer are considered moderate or high-risk sports because they involve player contact or are played indoors.
The other fall sports in Michigan are boys and girls tennis, and boys and girls cross country.
If all fall sports are suspended, they will be concluded in the spring, played at the same time as the spring sports, with the seasons potentially extending into July, the MHSAA said.
Wilcher has a 110-20 record as head coach at Cass Tech, including state championships in 2011, ’12 and ’16. At least six of his players plan to graduate early and enroll in college in January, which means the MHSAA’s decision will preserve their senior seasons of high school football. Those players are Michigan-bound Raheem Anderson, the Penn State-bound King twins – Kalen and Kobe – Terrence Enos (Pittsburgh), and Doran Ray and Clarence Wilson, who both are headed to Toledo.
Wilcher said Michigan Football Coaches Association members are expected to have another Zoom meeting next week with MHSAA executive director Mark Uyl to get more information.
“We know right now that this virus can cause long-term illnesses and that’s why I want these kids to stay safe and healthy,” Wilcher said. “We always have to have those precautionary measures in practice, because that’s where the longevity is going to come during the season.”
The MHSAA is developing COVID-related safety protocols for all fall sports and will provide those to schools in the coming weeks.
“Our student-athletes just want to play, and we’ve gone far too long without them playing. But doing so safely, of course, remains the priority,” Uyl said in a statement. “Our plan moving forward is fall in the fall, starting on time. We’re excited to continue moving forward to bring back sports safely. It’s important for keeping students in our schools and keeping students in our sports programs.
“We remain grateful to the Governor for the opportunity to build the schedule and policies for returning sports to schools. We will continue to support her directives and those of the state and local health departments as we work to create the safest environment for all involved in our activities.”
Results of football state championship games last season:
Division 1: Davison 35, Brighton 25
Division 2: Muskegon Mona Shores 35, Detroit King 26
Division 3: River Rouge 30, Muskegon 7
Division 4: Grand Rapids CC 44, Detroit Country Day 0
Division 5: Lansing Catholic 31, Almont 17
Division 6: Monroe St. Mary CC 7, Maple City Glen Lake 0
Division 7: Pewamo-Westphalia 14, Jackson Lumen Christi 0
Division 8: Reading 33, Beal City 6