In countless school and community gatherings all across Michigan, and in more printed pieces than I can remember, I have advocated for students to attempt to sample all of the diverse activities that a comprehensive high school has to offer ... both athletic and non-athletic activities. It is this variety that highlighted my own school experience and enriched that of my two sons.
Because of my outspoken advocacy for speech and debate and music and drama, I have been asked why I do not advocate that the Michigan High School Athletic Association serve and support those activities in the way it does sports.
The first and foremost reason is that those school programs are already well served by existing organizations in Michigan. But more fundamentally, I resist expansion of MHSAA authority to those activities because it would undermine the essential eligibility rules we must have for competitive athletic programs. I have seen this pressure in other states, but sports has regulatory needs that speech and debate and music and drama do not.
While the profile of some of these programs in some of our member schools is as high as any sports program in those schools, the competitive pressures are still different. No one is recruiting tuba players from one school to another. Debaters are not often subject to undue influence. Meanwhile, sports programs are under intense pressures that lead to athletic-motivated and athletic-related transfers, undue influence and other unsavory behaviors.
As I recently explained this rationale to my colleagues in neighboring states, all but one of which is an athletics-only organization like the MHSAA, one of my counterparts chipped in: "Well, we did once have a tuba player be recruited by and transfer to another school in our state. But he was seven feet tall and, in addition to playing in the band, he was the basketball team's highest scorer and most prolific rebounder."