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Bouncing Basketball Around

We can educate kids in school sports just as well with or without elegant venues. That doesn’t mean we won’t miss The Palace of Auburn Hills for the Michigan High School Athletic Association Individual Wrestling Finals, but people are more important than places in educational athletics. Values are more critical than venues.

Nevertheless, when we think and talk about sites for MHSAA Girls and Boys Basketball Finals in 2019 and beyond, as we have been forced to do because of increasing costs and decreasing availabilities at Michigan State University’s Breslin Student Events Center, it draws more public and media attention than the fundamental importance of the topic.  

Our discussions across the state and our surveys have given us some insights.

One is that using Michigan’s larger NCAA Division I university arenas is not considered a high priority by a majority of our constituents. Nor is utilizing the same facility for both genders a necessity.

It appears most people like WHEN and WHERE we’ve conducted our tournaments the past eight years (the Breslin Center, on consecutive weekends for girls and boys); but most people seem to value the schedule more than the site . . . they appear to prefer that we keep the calendar we’ve enjoyed for many years,  even if the venue must change to make that possible.

It appears that many people prefer a smaller venue than Breslin’s nearly 15,000-seat arena for the girls tournament, some reflecting fondly on the exciting, often near-capacity atmosphere that Central Michigan University’s Rose Arena provided in 1996 through 2003. They should get that atmosphere for this year’s Finals at Calvin College’s Van Noord Arena in March, the largest NCAA Division III arena in the country, which has twice hosted the Division III Women’s Basketball Final Four.

We had hoped to be able to announce this December the decisions that would inform everyone when and where we will be staging Girls and Boys Basketball Finals for the next four years; but it is becoming increasingly apparent that we may be making decisions on a year-to-year basis for a while, hoping eventually to sort things out and establish new traditions that we come to value as much as the schedule and site stability that ended in 2017.

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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 45 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 nine years, and is a past-chair of the board of directors of the Michigan Society of Association Executives. He is chair of the board of trustees for the Capital Region Community Foundation for 2018.

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.