GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The high school football season will be moved to spring, organizers say.
The Michigan High School Athletic Association announced the decision by its board of directors Friday, citing concerns about spreading the coronavirus and saying it was made after talking with state health officials.
“At the end of the day, we did everything we could to find a path forward for football this fall,” MHSAA Executive Director Mark Uyl said in a written statement. “But while continuing to connect with the Governor’s office, state health department officials, our member schools’ personnel and the Council, there is just too much uncertainty and too many unknowns to play football this fall.”
Officials say football is considered high risk for spreading the virus because players have so much contact. Uyl said no other sports have nearly the same “close, consistent, and face-to-face contact.”
In a video statement, Uyl said the MHSAA board could not see a path forward to play “with a clear conscience and without that pit in our stomach.”
Uyl added with a catch in this throat that he understood well the impact of his decision as the father of a senior football player.
“Just know that we’re going to take today’s disappointment and put all of our effort and energy into giving our kids the best possible football experience imaginable in the spring of 2021,” Uyl said, going on to encourage everyone to wear masks and wash their hands frequently to make sure that would be possible.
MHSAA says there were 34,219 high school football players on 603 team rosters last year.
So far, the MHSAA is still moving forward with other fall sports including volleyball, soccer, cross country, golf, tennis and swimming, though Uyl indicated that could change. For now, though, most of those sports have already started practice and some start games as early as next week.
“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 this great game,” Uyl said of other fall sports in the video.
In March, MHSAA shut down winter and spring sport gameplay after the virus was detected in Michigan and ultimately canceled the seasons outright in April.
The Great Lakes Youth Football Conference, which organizes football for kids ages 5 to 14, told News 8 it would also postpone its season until spring.
“This decision was made with the safety of the Kids, Coaches, Conference support staff and fans in mind,” GLYFC President Dan Durst wrote to News 8. “This decision was not easy just because I feel the disappointment of the kids.”