Over the years I have become increasingly impatient with the MHSAA’s committee process. On the one hand, it is a nice exercise in democracy to involve each year more than 500 different people on more than 40 standing committees, including at least one for each MHSAA tournament sport. However, it’s too often a superficial process that seems indifferent to or incapable of dealing with the most important issues of school sports.
Typically, each sport committee meets once each year for three to five hours, during which time it considers proposals that come from schools, leagues and the state’s coaches association for the sport; and the proposals most often deal with allowing more regular-season events and more qualifiers to the MHSAA postseason tournament.
Occasionally there is a proposal that might improve sportsmanship. But much more often the proposals would increase conflicts between academics and athletics and/or strain overstressed local budgets. And almost never is there a proposal that would address the health and safety of participants (the Wrestling Committee has been an occasional exception and the Competitive Cheer Committee is a routine exception).
While coaches associations must shoulder some of the blame because they’ve brought MHSAA committees “trivial” topics, at least in comparison to the tougher health and safety topics, much of the cause of MHSAA committee ineffectiveness is that the committees don’t meet long enough or often enough to research serious problems and develop well-thought-out solutions. That is forgivable because it is difficult to get commitments from busy people all across Michigan to be absent from their regular jobs and travel dozens or even hundreds of miles, and to do so multiple times each year – which is what it takes to more fully understand complex problems and more carefully construct solutions. Meetings have to be few and they have to be efficient.
However, facing the worst publicity football has seen since the mid-1970s, we knew we had to supplement the football committee process. We did so by appointing a special Football Task Force of optimum size and experienced, representative makeup to meet on however many occasions are necessary during 2013 to accomplish three purposes:
Review practice policies to improve acclimatization of players and reduce head trauma.
Review competition rules to reduce head trauma and the frequency of the sport’s most injurious game situations.
Develop promotions that extol the value of football to students, schools and communities and the safety record of school-based football.
The promotional efforts have begun to be rolled out; game rule modifications are being investigated; and four proposals for changing football practice policies have been prepared. They will be the topic of our next posting.