ROCKFORD, Mich. (WOOD0 — The governor decided Michigan has good enough control of the coronavirus pandemic that high school sports can get back underway, but schools are still wrestling with a lot of issues.
A big one: how to replace the tens of thousands of dollars in lost ticket earnings because of much smaller crowds.
But even though football games in particular are going to look different, coaching staffs are still pumped up to get started.
“We went from zero to 100 with one decision,” Cole Andrews, the athletic director for Rockford High School, said Friday, the day after the governor said organized sports could resume. “This gives them the ability to compete, so we are just elated that we’re going to be out competing.”
This season is getting a jumpstart, with six games instead of nine. Every team will make the playoffs.
“The kids are competing, the coaches are coaching,” Andrews said. “I think for mental health reasons, that’s what we’re looking for this year.”
A shortened and sudden season, along with limitations of two spectators per participant, means there’s a lot less revenue. That’s a hurdle that will vary by the school.
“Even though we’re not sure where we’ll be at the end of the year financially, I’m confident we’ll be alright,” Andrews said. “We’ll come up with a plan. That’s our job — to make sure our kids and our coaches are taken care of, so I’m confident we’ll do that and we’ll be in good shape.”
This year, with an estimated 200 to 300 fans in attendance, there is a question of whether gate admission will do any good.
“We’re working through whether or not we’re going to charge for admission and how we’re going to do that,” Cory Anderson, president of the O-K White Conference, said. “I don’t have an answer for that yet, but it is something that is in discussion both amongst our district and amongst the O-K Conference schools.”
Everyone in the crowd will be required to wear masks in an effort to keep games safe for everyone involved. And with a smaller capacity, many teams are looking to stream games online.
“Whether it be Facebook Live or something like that,” Anderson said. “I don’t know what it’s going to look like yet, but that is our intention in the next few weeks.”
The first kickoff isn’t too far away. It’s happening for teams like Rockford High School and Forest Hills North High School on Sept. 18.
“We’re ready to roll,” Andrews said. “We’ve got a good process down, I feel good about it. That doesn’t mean that something won’t happen. If it does, we’ll deal with it when it comes, but I feel really good about it. I’m not worried at all.”
A decision will be made next week on whether cheerleaders and bands will be at games.