Photo: MLive

Muskegon Mona Shores players run drills at practice on Monday, Dec. 21.


Posted Saturday, Jan. 26, 2020

   In the middle of the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic, the on-again, off-again Michigan High School Athletic Association football playoffs are set to resume again on Saturday, Jan. 9, with the regional finals.

   Non-contact conditioning and drills (wearing helmets and shoulder pads with physical distancing) will resume Monday, Dec. 28, following all emergency orders from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS).

   Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and the MDHHS announced a pilot program on Friday, Dec. 18, that allowed the resumption of the remaining MHSAA fall playoffs in football, volleyball, and girls swimming and diving.

   Robert Gordon, MDHHS director, made the announcement at a press conference at the state capitol, that the remaining fall playoffs could resume, but with no spectators and players would have to undergo rapid testing for COVID-19. The antigen tests check for proteins that can indicate a person has the virus.

   The MHSAA quickly released revised schedules to complete the championships after the New Year and allowed practice to begin practice on Monday, Dec. 21.

   But Tuesday, Dec. 22, the MHSAA said it needed to push back the playoff dates and delay the start of practice after clarification from the health department.

   On Saturday, Dec. 26, the MHSAA announced revised football playoff dates and the resumption of practice next week.

   Football teams may begin two days of outdoor, non-contact conditioning and drills, wearing helmets and shoulder pads with physical distancing, on Monday, Dec. 28, in advance of the first round of COVID-19 testing Dec. 30 as part of the MDHHS rapid testing pilot program. Schools will test players, coaches and other team personnel beginning that date, with full-contact practice then allowed after a first round of negative results. The testing program will utilize BinaxNOW antigen tests that produce results within 15 minutes.

   “The challenge is that this is a program that when director Gordon made it public at the news conference, this program did not exist in writing until the following Tuesday,” MHSAA executive director Mark Uyl said. “Some things that we were told, some things that we understood and things that we were communicating, they were changed from the time we went from Friday to Tuesday.”

   Football regional final games for 11-player teams and the semifinals for eight-player teams were set begin again on Saturday, Jan. 2. The eight-player championship games in both divisions and all 11-player semifinals will now be played Saturday, Jan. 9. The football season is now set to conclude with the 11-player championships in all divisions the weekend of Jan. 15-16, at Ford Field in Detroit. All semifinals in both 11- and eight-player will be played at home sites. But some schools are currently searching to see if indoor venues are available.

   Currently there are only 72 schools left in football competition — 64 in 11-player and eight in eight-player. After the next round there will be only 36 schools still playing.

   The MDHHS’s current epidemic order and extension– which paused activity beginning Nov. 18 – is set to expire Jan. 15. If restrictions on non-contact sports are lifted, then the remaining teams in the volleyball and girls swimming and diving playoffs could practice and compete at that time without the required rapid testing program.

   If the MDHHS epidemic order is extended again, volleyball and girls swimming and diving could begin practice, but those teams and individuals would have to follow all requirements of the MDHHS rapid testing pilot program to be eligible to participate in the playoffs.

   Specific plans and dates for volleyball and girls swimming and diving practice resumption and MHSAA tournaments will be finalized and shared with competing schools in early January.

   The volleyball tournament was set to begin again with quarterfinals on Tuesday, Jan. 5. Semifinals and finals was set be played Thursday-Saturday, Jan. 7-9, at Kellogg Arena in Battle Creek. The MHSAA did not release revised dates for the remaining playoff games, only saying they would be completed before Jan. 30.

   In volleyball, only 32 teams remain and only 16 will be in competition after the quarterfinals are played.

   The girls swimming and diving championships were planned to return with the three Lower Peninsula finals competed during the weekend of Jan. 15-16 with one division at each of three locations. Diving would be completed Jan. 15, with swimming completed the following day. As with volleyball, MHSAA did not release revised dates for the swimming and diving finals, only saying they would be completed before Jan. 30.

   Gov. Whitmer said recently that the state will “seriously consider” lifting protocols sooner than Jan. 15 if recent progress is sustained.

   Michigan has seen dramatic reductions in COVID-19 cases since the pause was implemented. The seven-day average of COVID-19 cases in the state peaked at 7,270 on Nov. 21. It was 2,631 on Dec. 26. On Nov. 21, the positive test rate in the state was 13.2 percent. On Dec. 26, it was 7.1 percent. A rate of 3 percent or higher concerns health officials.

   Under the pilot program, each athlete will be required to take three rapid-results COVID-19 tests a week on non-consecutive days while practicing and competing in their respective fall tournament.

   The test was described by the MDHHS as a non-invasive process with a swab of the nose and that swab is applied to a card where results of the test appear rapidly.

   Should a person test positive, that individual will need to connect with their own medical provider but will not necessarily be excluded from participation after direction from that provider.

   Each individual is required to sign a written consent to the testing program.


Winter sports update

   The representative council of the MHSAA approved an adjusted regular-season calendar for indoor winter sports on Dec. 23.

   All winter sports activity, with the exception of boys and girls skiing, has been paused by the MDHHS to decrease spread of COVID-19. If the

MDHHS order is rescinded as expected. indoor practices may begin again

 Jan. 16, with first competitions Jan. 22 for basketball, bowling, boys hockey, and boys swimming and diving; and Jan. 25 for competitive cheer, gymnastics and wrestling.

   The council also approved one-year changes to competition limits in boys hockey and wrestling. In hockey, teams may play two games on one non-school day on two dates this season – with four games total during those two weeks when this opportunity is utilized. Wrestling teams are allowed two dates of competition per week this season, with competition limited to four teams at a site (and three matches per student per day of competition).

   The council also approved changes to the winter tournament schedule pushing championships in most sports back to allow for regular seasons to be extended due to the late start. Following are the updated dates:


Boys basketball

Districts: March 9, 11 and 13

Regionals: March 17 and 19

Quarterfinals: March 23

Semifinals: March 25 (two sites)

Finals: March 27


Girls basketball

Districts: March 8, 10 and 12

Regionals: March 16 and 18

Quarterfinals: March 22

Semifinals: March 24 (two sites)

Finals: March 26


Boys and girls bowling

Regionals: March 19-20

Finals: March 26-27


Competitive cheer

Districts: March 5-6

Regionals: March 13

Finals: March 19-20



Regionals: March 20

Finals: March 26-27


Boys hockey

Regionals: March 15-20

Finals: March 25-27


Boys swimming and diving (Lower Peninsula)

Regionals: March 18

Finals: March 26-27



District week: March 1

Regional week: March 8

Team finals: March 19-20

Individual finals: March 26-27


   Currently, the start dates of spring sports are not affected. If current orders further delay activity beyond Jan. 16, the MHSAA will devise updated plans that address both winter and spring sports. If current orders are amended to allow activity to begin earlier, the first days of practice and competition will be moved up accordingly.

MHSAA's revised restart plan for the remaining fall sports championships


Regional finals: Saturday,
January 9, 2021, at various sites

Semifinals: Saturday,
January 16, 2021, at various sites

Finals: Friday and Saturday
January 22-23, 2021, at Ford Field


Quarterfinals: Tuesday, TBD, at various sites

Semifinals: Thursday-Friday, TBD, at Kellogg Arena, Battle Creek

Finals: Saturday, TBD, at Kellogg Arena, Battle Creek (No later than Jan. 30)

Girls swimming and diving

Finals (Lower Peninsula): Diving, Friday, TBD; Swimming,  Saturday, TBD

(No later than Jan. 30)

Division 1: At Hudsonville

Division 2: At Grand Rapids Northview

Division 3: At Lake Orion