The interscholastic football season comes to an end this weekend with the MHSAA Finals at Ford Field, but the most talked about sport in high schools today will continue to make headlines for many months into the future.
Some of the headlines will introduce topics that are merely footnotes compared to what is really most important, that being the efforts to keep school-sponsored football the safest and sanest brand of football in America.
At the center of these efforts has been a task force appointed by the MHSAA to work throughout 2013 to advance these two objectives: “To promote the value of interscholastic football and to probe for ways to make the sport safer in Michigan.”
The tangible results of the task force’s four meetings are these:
MHSAA research informs us that participation in 11- or 8-player football in member high schools this fall was down 3.0 percent compared to 2012, and down 7.63 percent since the 2008 season. The biggest reasons cited by those surveyed are, in declining order, safety issues, declining enrollment, athletes playing other school or non-school sports, cultural changes and pay-to-participate.
It is important to note that participation is not declining everywhere, not even everywhere where enrollments are down and participation fees are up. It is important to note also that some other sports are in much greater decline than football in terms of high school participation.
It is difficult for me to imagine my life without football as a part of it. It’s difficult to imagine schools and communities without football. I very much doubt that the absence of football would have improved my life or the schools and communities I’ve been a part of. It’s a sport that needs our attention, not its extinction.