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Armada Athletics

Armada High School

Armada Athletics

Armada High School

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1 month ago by By Drew Ellis dellis@medianewsgroup.com; @ellisdre

Extended pause of high school sports frustrates Mark Uyl, MHSAA

Virus Outbreak Prep Sports

Mark Uyl, executive director of the Michigan High School Athletic Association spoke on Tuesday about his frustration with prep sports not being allowed to resume under the extension of the epidemic order. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

Paul Sancya

The Michigan High School Athletic Association thought it had a safe and secure plan to resume prep sports in the month of December.

Tuesday, a frustrated MHSAA Executive Director Mark Uyl appeared on “The Huge Show” radio program to express his disappointment in the extension of the epidemic order placed by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, alongside Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.

“We’re continuing to be on hold. The three-week pause has now become a five-week pause. To say that we were disappointed in yesterday’s announcement would be an understatement,” Uyl said. “We had put together an incredibly well-thought-out plan, citing all of our evidence and data that we have collected from the first day of fall practice in August, and a very reasonable plan to let our three ongoing fall tournaments football, volleyball, and swim, be able to get the closure and to do it safely during the month of December.”

The MHSAA had a plan for remaining fall sports and all winter sports to begin practice on Dec. 9, while just the three remaining fall sports would compete throughout December to finish their seasons. Winter sports would then begin competitions in January.

Now, those plans are out the window and the MHSAA has to find a way to stick to its goal of three completed seasons.

“Our goal is three seasons that will all reach the finish line, and that goal has not changed. We still have some time here in front of us, but certainly had a good, safe plan put together to let fall finish during the month of December, and very disappointed we weren’t given that opportunity or that option yesterday,” Uyl said. “One thing sports teaches you is that when you get knocked down, you need to dust yourself off and get right back up. We are going to convene the meeting of our board tomorrow and see where we go next.”

While the MHSAA Representative Board will meet on Wednesday, Uyl said a timetable for the resumption of sports may not be put in place after their initial plan wasn’t given much consideration.

“I’m not even going to put out dates, I’m not sure that our board is going to put dates to paper because I’m not going to go through that treadmill exercise again of the pause ending on this date and then us planning, us sharing that plan, asking for some critical feedback and analysis from the decision-makers, really not getting any concerns, and then you wait until the next announcement and you have a bunch of kids across the state who end up very frustrated and disappointed,” he said. “Certainly the timing of the extension before the holidays presents an awful lot of challenges. As we have since last March, we are going to take things on a day-to-day, week-to-week basis.”

Uyl and the MHSAA spoke to members of Gov. Whitmer’s office and members of the MDHHS prior to Monday’s press conference and laid out a plan for how they would safely complete fall sports.

In that meeting Uyl stressed that a minimum of 95 percent of football teams across the state were able to compete each week, as were a minimum of 94 percent of volleyball teams. All other fall sports never had less than 97 percent participation due to COVID-19.

“I’m all about following the science and the data and the metrics, what we were told in that phone conversation is that the epidemiology would not allow sports to resume,” Uyl said. “When asked for specifics of that epidemiology or copies or evidence, we are still waiting for that.”

Uyl added that the MHSAA was prepared to hold the fall events without any spectators to provide as safe of an environment as possible while still completing the tournaments.

“We would continue to play with a mask on, which has not been required of high school athletes in any other state in the country, as it has been in Michigan. So we were going to continue to play with masks and then we were also going to add the step of no spectators,” he said.

“The most frustrating thing is we still have yet to be given a good answer of why our plan didn’t make sense. I think that’s probably the thing I’ve had the hardest time, as I’ve thought about this every minute since 2:30 p.m. (Monday) afternoon, about what we could have done differently or better. If there is science and the data that says this is why you shouldn’t be playing over the next three weeks, you provide that to me and you can explain it to me and I’ll become the biggest supporter of that.”

During Monday’s press conference, Whitmer stated that her first priority when it comes to schools is getting kids back in the classrooms.

“As a parent of a high schooler, and as the Governor of Michigan, I believe that our first priority should be getting students back in the classroom safely,” she said. “That I believe is paramount”

That statement came when Whitmer was asked a question about the status of high school sports.

“What was a little disappointing is in the prepared remarks yesterday from our three government leaders, they didn’t even bring up sports during their remarks,” Uyl said. “It was only because of a reporter’s question at the very end of the press conference where the issue even came up.”

Uyl remains consistent in his message that the MHSAA can hold sporting events safely for the sake of the athletes and he hopes to continue to have dialogue with Whitmer and the MDHHS to get prep sports back as soon as possible.

“Everything we tried to do was not based on hope, it was based on our metrics going back to early August, and we just weren’t given that opportunity,” he said. “We’ve been very willing partners. We’ve tried to engage and communicate at every single step. We’re here to help.”


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