MHSAA postpones Michigan high school football to spring 2021

The Michigan High School Athletics Association has decided to postpone football until spring 2021. 

Executive Director Mark Uyl announced the change in a video Friday but added that other fall sports in the low to moderate risk categories will continue forward. Practices have begun in the other sports and competitions may begin in golf and tennis on August 19 and cross country on August 21. 

Uyl said the decision was a difficult one, but the best one due to the high-risk nature of the contact sport after consulting with officials and medical specialists.

"For the last 155 days all of us have lived with a great deal of uncertainty," said Uyl. "This virus has changed on an almost weekly basis in terms of the data, the spread, and most importantly how it has impacted the people who live in our state and our families. As our board in consultation with the governor's office and state health department officials looked at all the data and information, there were just too many unknowns and uncertainties where we could move ahead and play football, and do it with a clear conscience without that pit in our stomach.

"Do know that our other fall sports are scheduled to move forward because simply put, they just don't carry the same risk levels that the hand-to-hand, face-to-face every play contact in football requires of our young people that play our great game."

In the video statement, Uyl gets visibly emotional saying that they ran out of time with the school seasons and that they made the choice with the interest and safety of the student-athletes above all - adding that he is also the parent of a senior football player and feels the disappointment.

Some area coaches understood the decision and shared the disappointment.

"When this started they said it could take 18 months to two years - and we are in month seven," said Trenton Coach Bob Czarnecki. "So to a certain extent it was like trying to take a size nine foot and putting it in a size six shoe and say 'That shoe will fit, just try it on for a little while.' And I think what they decided today was in the best interest of (everyone).

"The good thing is, we still have the spring. It is not like the football season was canceled and that's it. That would have been heartwrenching because I have a senior on the team. But we are going to have some season in the spring, so they are going to be okay. It will just be different, but right now, everything is different."

Woodhaven Coach Keith Christnagel said one of the hardest things about the announcement was that it is a setback to a sense of normalcy for the students.

"It is kind of a letdown," he said. "The kids started to see a little normalcy and starting to get back and now it gets shut down. 

"My phone blew up, 'Is it true?' 'Are we done?' 'What do we do?' There is a lot of uncertainty. We don't know all of the things we will be allowed to do, and I feel bad for the kids who they were really enjoying the time they had right now to be back to the way it was in years past." 

The MHSAA statement can be read below:

Earlier today, the Representative Council made the difficult decision to postpone football until the spring of 2021. This decision was based on feedback and input from the Governor’s office, state health department officials, member schools, collegiate conferences, and individuals on both sides of the issue.

Plans will be shared soon regarding allowed fall coach-player workouts as well as concepts for the spring football season dates, format, and playoffs. Know that all other fall sports in the low and moderate risk categories are moving forward. Practices have begun in all those other sports and competitions may begin in golf and tennis on August 19 and cross country on August 21. The Representative Council will be meeting again next Wednesday to finalize the competition calendars for boys soccer, girls swimming, and volleyball.

Further guidance regarding these indoor facilities in Phase 4 is coming to schools next week. At the end of the day, we did everything we could to find a path forward for football this fall. With all input received, along with school feedback from the first week of practice, there was just too much uncertainty and too many unknowns to safely play football this fall.

While there is disappointment today that we could not play football this fall, we are encouraged and motivated to find the best possible plan to fit football in with existing seasons to give all of our kids the best experience possible. Please look for our next update to reach you on August 19 with finalized plans and dates for the remaining fall sports. Thank you.