Delayed again: Start of high school winter sports seasons pushed back after state pandemic order extended

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“Contact” indoor sports like basketball, hockey and wrestling can start seasons on Feb. 1; “noncontact” sports like gymnastics, swimming and bowling can start Jan. 22 or 25; skiing began in December


By Journal Sports Staff

EAST LANSING — The start of most high school winter sports has been delayed by three to 10 days after an extension of the state order pertaining to the coronavirus pandemic.

The order extends most restrictions from Friday until Feb. 1, such as the reopening of indoor dining in restaurants.

The order, issued by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, extends into youth, including high school, sports.

The MHSAA then issued new timelines Wednesday based on the extension of the order. The full MHSAA bulletin is available under “Press Releases” from the home page of the group’s website, www.mhsaa.com.

While skiing has been allowed for about a month as it is held outdoors and considered a “noncontact” sport, just about every other winter MHSAA sport is held indoors and is under stricter protocols.

Practice for nearly all the sports was to be allowed starting Saturday — a day after the order was originally set to expire — and won’t change, though those considered “contact” sports can only hold noncontact practices at first. It wasn’t clear from the MHSAA bulletin when noncontact practices could change over to include contact.

Contact sports are classified as basketball, hockey, wrestling and competitive cheer.

Their competition games or meets, which for basketball and hockey could start on Jan. 22 and for wrestling and competitive cheer on Jan. 25, have all been moved back to Feb. 1.

The MHSAA said it will adjust postseason tournament dates because of the starting delays and announce the revised schedule in the next few days.

Noncontact sports include gymnastics, girls and boys bowling and Upper Peninsula girls and boys swimming. They will have earlier dates when they can open their competitions — Jan. 22 for swimming and Jan. 25 for gymnastics and bowling.

Even these noncontact sports will require masks to be worn by all participants except when actively participating in gymnastics, swimming and diving. Spectators at events will be capped at 100 for school gyms and 250 for stadium and arenas in accordance with another part of the MDHHS orders.

“We are glad to have three more sports join skiing in returning to full activity, but we understand the disappointment and frustration on the part of our athletes and coaches whose sports are not yet able to restart completely,” MHSAA Executive Director Mark Uyl said in the bulletin. “We will continue to adjust schedules to provide all of our winter teams as substantial an experience this season as possible, as part of our greater plan this school year to play all three seasons to conclusion.

“We have shown with our remaining fall sports this month that our schools can participate safely, and we’re confident teams will continue to take all the appropriate precautions as we jump back into indoor winter activities.”

Spring sports teams and fall teams not participating in the MDHHS rapid testing pilot program may begin four-player workouts and resume conditioning on Saturday, but only with noncontact activities.

Fall teams finishing their seasons in football, volleyball and Lower Peninsula girls swimming and diving have been able to do so by taking part in the testing program for COVID-19; volleyball and swimming and diving will conclude with finals this weekend, while football will finish Jan. 22-23 with 11-player finals.

Eight-player football finals in two divisions, which will include North Central from the U.P., will be held at the indoor Legacy Center in Brighton. While the broadcasts will be carried live on Fox Sports Detroit’s Facebook page at www.facebook.com/FOXSportsDetroit, they won’t be available on its cable television channel until 8 and 11 p.m. next Thursday. North Central will likely play in the late game as a participant in the Division 2 finals.

All 16 11-player football semifinals will be broadcast online at FOXSportsDetroit.com or MHSAA.tv. Fees may be charged. MHSAA.tv is also scheduled to carry volleyball semifinals and finals today through Saturday.

Information compiled by Journal Sports Editor Steve Brownlee. His email address is sbrownlee@miningjournal.net.