By Scott Nason
“The Game” ESPN 1400
Michigan High School Athletic Association Executive Director, Mark Uyl, says he is incredibly pleased with how the fall sports season has begun, and the winter sports season is on as scheduled, across the state.
Uyl made his comments this past Monday night’s edition of “The Game”, heard on Monday night’s 6-8 p.m. on ESPN 1400.
Fall high school sports commenced in late August with volleyball, cross country, and boys soccer locally, and football beginning in September. As the season has moved along, there have been some changes, challenges, and questions, however, Uyl says he is incredibly pleased with how things have gone to this point.
“We always believed that kids were going to find sports, and given the fact that they were, they far and away would be safest in our programs,” said Uyl. “All things considered, we have had some COVID shutdowns, certainly in the Copper Country with their schools being closed the past two weeks. What you can’t forget when it comes to football, we have had 95%+ of our football schools play the first four weeks of the regular season. If we are going to be able to continue to educate kids, and educate kids through sports, as we continue to navigate COVID, having positive cases and having teams have to shut down for a week or two at different times, that’s just part of the new reality that we have to deal with.”
Uyl also talked about the upcoming football playoffs, as far as teams eligible and how many games might have to be played, especially those schools who have had multiple games cancelled due to COVID.
“You have to play four games to be in the tournament, however, we did put in a waiver procedure for this fall,” said Uyl. “For example a school like Escanaba and they can only play three games, they would be able to ask our office for a waiver of the four game minimum. If they have had a bonafide team, and circumstances outside of their control, prevented them from playing on the field, they would still would be able to be part of the tournament.”
Uyl also said they are close to announcing a location for the 11-player finals, which appears to be Ford Field in Detroit, Michigan. The plans for the location for the 8-player final, which has been played at the Superior Dome in Marquette, isn’t an option this year, as the school will be on break after Thanksgiving. Uyl said the MHSAA needs a little more time to determine a location for the 8-player final, and are exploring several options.
“We may look at what teams could potentially advance,” said Uyl. “With so many turf field options all over the state, whether that is in Petoskey, Gaylord and Midland, it may be a case where we wait until the semifinals and see what the pairings will be and then announce those 8-player final sites, just to be the most equitable for the schools that could be involved.”
With all the changes with Executive Orders, Supreme Court decisions and other health recommendations to combat COVID-19, Uyl said that face coverings are still required for athletes in most fall sports.
“I know that face covering requirement is one that really creates some heartburn for some people,” said Uyl. “We can all point to studies, we can all point to data, and we can all point to opinions, about good idea, bad idea. The bottom line here is face coverings have to be worn currently in soccer, volleyball and football. The alternative to that right now is us not playing.”
Winter high school sports across the state will begin in November, and Uyl said he is hoping to have more guidance as far as face coverings from the state and other health and safety measures.
“Everything is a go on time for winter sports,” said Uyl. “I would not be honest to say there are some real challenges ahead with wrestling, awfully tough to social distance during a wrestling meet. We have to see how the face coverings are going to play into it with basketball. The troublesome thing right now is you look at the COVID numbers over the last three weeks, we are really seeing some increases. The push is to go in the opposite direction about face coverings, I don’t see those numbers trending that way, and we need to be prepared to figure some things out and work through a winter season where face coverings could be required.”
To hear the complete interview with Michigan High School Athletic Association Executive Director, Mark Uyl, and other local, regional and national sports, listen to this Monday night’s edition of “The Game” on ESPN 1400.
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