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Scheduling Controversy

A dozen years ago, I asked our counterpart organizations in other states if they scheduled their schools’ regular-season varsity football games. Very few did so.

More recently, I’ve realized that I didn’t ask enough questions. It turns out that few statewide high school associations tell schools who they play each week of the regular season. However, many more give schools the group of opponents they may schedule. They place schools in leagues and/or districts and/or regions and instruct schools to schedule from among those schools only or predominantly.

I have been waiting for the tipping point where a sufficient number of high schools in Michigan are sufficiently stressed over scheduling football games that they would turn to the MHSAA to solve the problem.

I’m anticipating this might occur first among schools playing 8-player football, and that success there will lead to our assistance for 11-player schools.

One approach – the simpler solution – would work like this:

  • All 8-player schools within the enrollment limit for the 8-player tournament would be placed in two divisions on the basis of enrollment in early March. About 32 schools in each, based on current participation.
  • At the same time, each division would be divided into four regions of about eight schools.
  • In April, the schools of each region would convene to schedule seven regular season games for each school.
  • Based on current numbers, schools would still have two open weeks to fill, if they wish, for games with schools in other regions or of the other division or in neighboring states.

A second option – the date-specific solution – would provide every school its weekly schedule for all nine dates, or weeks 1 through 8, or weeks 2 through 8, depending on local preferences. This would not be difficult in concept once there is agreement on what criteria would be used and what value each criterion would have.

For example, one important criterion would be similarity of enrollment; another of great value would be proximity. Perhaps league affiliation would be a factor with some value. Perhaps historic rivalries would be another factor with a value. Then the computer spits out schedules for each school for every week for two years, home and away.

I don’t campaign for this task because, frankly, it will produce complaints and controversy. But if this organization exists to serve, then this is a service that today’s chronic complaints tell us we should begin to provide soon.

I suggest we do this for 8-player football for the 2019 and 2020 seasons (with a paper trial run for 2018). If it proves successful, we could expand the service to 11-player schools as soon after as they are satisfied with our efforts for 8-player schools.

Posted in: Football

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About the Author

Jack Roberts

Jack Roberts has been at the helm of the MHSAA as its Executive Director since 1986, implementing programs and overseeing tournament administration and regulations for the Association which boasts 1,500 member schools, 10,000 registered officials and 13,000 head coaches.

During the last 44 years, Roberts has spoken to educator and athletic groups, business leaders and civic groups in almost every state and five Canadian provinces. He is one of the nation's most articulate advocates for educational athletics.

Roberts has served on the board of directors of the National Association of Sports Officials (NASO), is in his second term on the board of the National Federation of State High School Associations, and is the first chairman of the NFHS Network board of directors. He has been board president for the Refugee Development Center for seven years, and is a past-chair of the board of directors of the Michigan Society of Association Executives. He is vice chair and secretary of the board of trustees for the Capital Region Community Foundation.

He is a 1970 graduate of Dartmouth College, where he played defensive safety for the Ivy League's winningest football team during that span, and he sang in Dartmouth's close harmony vocal group.

His wife, Peggy, has retired from a 30-year career in social services, and is serving as president of the board of the Fenner Nature Conservancy in Lansing.