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Seeking Input on Seeding

Seeding is a part of some levels of some Michigan High School Athletic Association tournaments, but no part of any level of MHSAA tournaments for other sports. The decisions are made sport-by-sport and level-by-level after sufficient understanding of a specific plan and broad support. 

Seeding deals with logistics, not a fundamental value of educational athletics. It gets outsized attention for its importance, having nothing to do with the interactions that lead to learning and growing in interscholastic athletics. It’s another byproduct of the ever-increasing influence of the pervasively promoted and televised NCAA’s basketball tournaments over the past 25 years.

Michigan’s high school sport most engaged in the topic now is, in fact, basketball. Discussions and surveys have been conducted regarding seeding at MHSAA District tournaments.

We’ve learned this summer and fall that a majority of our local school athletic directors favor seeding and do not think it will make regular-season scheduling more difficult nor cause coaches to delay or diminish substituting during regular season games.

We’ve learned that a majority favor a system that maintains geographically determined District tournaments and merely separates the top two seeded teams in each District, and continues to use a blind draw to place other teams assigned to the District on the bracket.

We’ve learned that a majority favors having the best two teams determined primarily through objective criteria assessed by an MHSAA created or controlled ranking system.

We’ve learned that while the majority favors these moves toward District seeding, there are significant pockets of opposition to any seeding at all in MHSAA basketball tournaments.  At two of six Athletic Director In-Service meetings and at two of seven Update meetings in September and October, large majorities in attendance opposed seeding of District basketball tournaments; and voters were nearly evenly split at several other meeting sites. 

The discernible pattern is that seeding loses support as one moves out of the more densely populated areas of Michigan. We need to better understand why this is so, and what’s behind these regional or demographic preferences; then have the Representative Council make a decision at its meeting in March or May; and get this topic decided one way or the other.  

There is so much else that is so much more important than seeding to the health of school-sponsored basketball that deserves the attention that seeding has been getting.

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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.