GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — The uncertainty surrounding the fall sports season continues, despite Governor Whitmer laying out guidance for the return of school sports in her "MI Safe Schools Roadmap" this week.
The Michigan High School Athletic Association (MHSAA) is currently weighing several options for athletes to resume competition in a few weeks.
"Plan A for us is fall as business as usual, winter business as usual and spring business as usual," John Johnson, the Director of Broadcast Properties for the MHSAA told FOX 17. "Everything that we're working on right now will start practices for all of our fall sports around the week of August 10th."
But Johnson says options like shorter seasons--with a modified playoffs schedule-- and even flipping the fall sports season with spring sports, are also on the table.
"If we were to flip, we'd be flipping whole seasons, not individual sports," he explained. "What that would look like is, if we were to flip football, swimming and volleyball and soccer, and all of the sports that are with football in the fall, would go to the spring. And we would be bringing baseball, softball, lacrosse, girl's soccer, track and field, we'd be bringing that whole group of sports to the fall. Which actually promotes a lot better things in terms of social distancing, smaller crowds because spring sports do draw smaller crowds."
He added, "At least that would give those kids some immediate gratification because they lost their spring season this year."
Under Phase 4, which the state of Michigan is in currently, sports can resume with heightened safety and sanitization protocols.
In phase 4, all of the items listed below are required:
Comply with all guidance published by Michigan High School Athletic Association (MHSAA) and the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS).
Students, teachers, and staff must use proper hand hygiene techniques before and after every practice, event, or other gathering. Every participant should confirm that they are healthy and without any symptoms prior to any event.
All equipment must be disinfected before and after use.
Inter-school competitions may be held provided that, facial coverings are worn if school transportation is provided. Buses must be cleaned and disinfected before and after every use, as detailed in the subsequent “Busing and Student Transportation” section.
Spectators are allowed provided that facial coverings are used by observers and six feet of social distancing can be maintained at all times. Attention must given to entry and exit points to prevent crowding.
Each participant must use a clearly marked water bottle for individual use. There should be no sharing of this equipment.
Handshakes, fist bumps, and other unnecessary contact must not occur.
Indoor weight rooms and physical conditioning activities that require shared equipment are suspended.
Outdoor physical conditioning activities are allowed while maintaining social distancing.
Large scale indoor spectator events are suspended. Large scale outdoor spectator or stadium events are limited to 100 people, and people not part of the same household must maintain six feet of distance from one another.
Johnson said the big crowds we typically see at football games wouldn't be allowed until Phase 6.
Still, contact sports like football are also in jeopardy, if the coronavirus outbreak worsens.
"We have to get to phase 5, according to the governor's roadmap, in order to be having the kind of contact that would be allowed in football," he explained.
Cancelling the football season would be devastating to school districts already struggling in light of the pandemic.
"At the end of the day we do have to remember that school sports are funded at the gate and football is the biggest one of all," Johnson said. "If they were to lose football, that's a monstrous hole that they would have to fill in their budgets."
"If we have nothing in the fall at all, we are working on an alternative, which would have, if we're allowed to have winter sports, have winter and then have a spring one and two, in which we would try to get some kind of schedule in fall sports and something in for spring sports."
Johnson said they are watching and taking cues from health officials, along with officials at the collegiate and professional level. The MHSAA hopes to make a final decision on the future of fall sports in the coming weeks.
"We would be hopeful still somewhere from mid to late July. We have to have something in place by that time," he said."And by that time we think there will be a lot of things that will have happened at the college and professional levels, that will help us to make that decision, if a decision is not made for us."