By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
By a vote of 561 in favor and 87 opposed, the membership of the Michigan High School Athletic Association has approved an amendment to the MHSAA Constitution that for the first time in 2016-17 will permit schools to join the MHSAA at the 6th-grade level.
Currently, MHSAA membership is open to schools at the 7th- and 8th-grade level as junior high/middle schools and at the 9th through 12th grades at the high school level. The MHSAA’s total membership of 1,458 schools consists at this time of 705 junior high/middle schools and 753 high schools.
The revision in the MHSAA Constitution does not require school districts to become member schools at the junior high/middle school level and does not require school districts to sponsor any interscholastic 6th-grade programs. If a school district’s MHSAA Membership Resolution lists a junior high/middle school as an MHSAA member school, and if the school sponsors a 6th-grade team in any sport or permits a 6th-grade student to participate with 7th- and/or 8th-grade students in any sport, then all MHSAA Regulations apply to all 6th-graders in all sports involving 6th-graders on teams sponsored by that school. If the school does not allow any 6th-graders to participate in a sport, MHSAA rules do not apply in that sport.
“There are a variety of reasons school districts so overwhelmingly supported this change,” MHSAA Executive Director John E. “Jack” Roberts said. “Some wanted the change so they could better market school sports to younger students. Some districts have their 6th-graders in the same buildings and even classrooms with 7th- and 8th-graders and see the natural fit. Some of our smaller junior high/middle schools need 6th-graders to fill out teams.”
MHSAA services, including catastrophic accident medical insurance and concussion care gap insurance, will be provided without charge for 6th-graders whose districts secure MHSAA membership, beginning with the 2016-17 school year.
The MHSAA is a private, not-for-profit corporation of voluntary membership by more than 1,400 public and private senior high schools and junior high/middle schools which exists to develop common rules for athletic eligibility and competition. No government funds or tax dollars support the MHSAA, which was the first such association nationally to not accept membership dues or tournament entry fees from schools. Member schools which enforce these rules are permitted to participate in MHSAA tournaments, which attract more than 1.4 million spectators each year.