By Jim Moyes
Local Sports Journal.com
I have long been a fan of the Michigan High School Athletic Association.
I realize there are times when their hands are often tied behind their back with issues that go far beyond their control.
Jack Robert did an awesome job during his tenure leading the MHSAA and Mark Uhl is currently doing superlative work while following in Robert’s footsteps. And let us not forget the outstanding work performed over the years before his recent retirement by a man I greatly respected in John Johnson, the longtime communications director.
However, if I could have a wish list there are a just a handful of changes I would like for our high school athletes, knowing full well that many will never come to fruition.
Wish list number one, and it is far and away NUMBER ONE: Make the state track & field finals, as well as cross country, a true state championship. As to why in the world the Upper Peninsula doesn’t compete in both of these state finals makes absolutely no sense. The UP currently takes part in just about all the sports with their peers south of the Mighty Mac bridge – why not track & field?
Before the Upper Peninsula conducted their first “official” UP state championship in 1940, many of their athletes would make the long trek to the Lower Peninsula to test their talents against those from “down below.”
A few of those who made the long journey, many years before the Mackinac Bridge was constructed in the late 1950s, became state champs. If Frank McCory, who won three state titles in 1930 and 1931 could make the more than 500-mile journey from Ontonagon to Lansing more than 90 years ago, why can’t today’s UP athletes do the same today?
How I would like to learn of McCory’s travels to Lansing and just how long it took this determined athlete to reach our state capitol well before today’s sleek highways were constructed.
I am fully aware that the MHSAA is in full support of my proposal, but the holdup is with UP school administrators. I feel it would be a simple solution to make the current UP state finals a regional final. For many years, the UP conducted their finals a week prior to the LP finals and it would be an easy fix to revert back to that schedule. Treat the UP as a regional and invite the top two or three place winners and those who would make the qualifying standard.
And speaking of track & field, if one would like to find out all one would ever need to know about the history of track & field in this great state, then one can purchase a third edition of “The Fleet Feet of Spring” authored by yours truly and Jeff Hollobaugh, the sports number one guru, by purchasing at Amazon.com using this link: https://www.amazon.com/Fleet-Feet-SpringMichigans-Championships/dp/1671699688/ref=sr_1_2?keywords=fleet+feet+of+spring&qid=1640017099&sr=8-2
While we are currently in the middle of another exciting basketball season, I would like to expand the number of games played to 25. Adding a few more games would permit teams to schedule games over the holiday season as well as keeping pace with schools from other states. This is one item on my wish list that I believe will become a reality in the very near future. Although a current limitation of 20 sounds a little low, back in the ‘ole announcers’ era of the 1950s the maximum number was but 15 contests.
There is very little in football that I would change as I believe the MHSAA has been the poster child for high school football across our great nation. There are always those minor tweaks to the guidelines seemingly every year, but Michigan still remains as the frontrunner for playoff football. My only wish is that a team who is having difficulty with a schedule be permitted to travel as far away as the distance from the two farthest points in the state of Michigan. To travel from Ironwood to Temperance would be about 627 miles.
The only change I would make in baseball/softball would allow teams to play 2-5 games in a sunny climate much like the college teams do every spring. Many other state schools have allowed teams to travel south to play against teams from – for example Florida schools. This should only apply to baseball/softball because of the unpredictable weather experienced in March/April in Michigan.
I am aware that schools from ‘poorer’ districts will struggle to raise funds during Spring Break, but if a school like Shelby can do it, many others can do the same.
Overall, I would give the MHSAA an A+ as the administrator for high school sports. However, can’t I be just a little picky?