We haven’t played a single game yet, and already we have football teams in trouble with the Michigan High School Athletic Association.
You will never guess why.
Undue influence? Nope. Recruiting a player from another school? Hardly. Illegal practices? Not really.
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The schools known as the “Notre Dame 9” are in trouble for participating in a camp at Notre Dame that included a 7-on-7 competition.
“We were at a bordering state,” said Fenton coach Jeff Setzke. “At least one school was from Arizona, which was the part of the rule that nobody understood. Obviously their trip was more than 300 miles. We didn’t play them, but those are the rules.”
The MHSAA has a rule barring a team from Michigan from traveling more than 300 miles to compete, unless it is in a bordering state. But also, it cannot compete against a team that travels more than 300 miles to compete.
“One of the purposes of all of these limits that are placed on in-season and out-of-season competitions are to try to avoid an arms war where people spend more and more, go further and further, play more and more,” said MHSAA executive director Jack Roberts. “Schools should not be compelled to keep up with that.”
I understand and completely agree with the part about Michigan schools not traveling more than 300 miles to compete. But there are parts of this rule that make little sense.
For instance, a few years ago Birmingham Brother Rice had to pull out of the Herbstreit Classic in Ohio because a school, not even playing at the same venue as Rice, traveled more than 300 miles.
Lowell is in trouble for attending a camp at Pittsburgh, and Detroit Cass Tech violated the rule because it attended a camp in Alabama. Like the “Notre Dame 9,” the Technicians were penalized one 7-on-7 day of competition.
“It’s hard to have fun with football kids outside of football season based upon these kinds of rules,” said Lowell coach Noel Dean. “The trip to Pittsburgh was a lot of fun for my kids. They didn’t feel like they were working. They didn’t feel like they were being made to do something that wasn’t fun.
“A lot of kids will never have the chance to be on a Division I campus — ever. It’s inexpensive. That’s the part that’s hard to explain to kids and parents.”
It is even harder to explain to the kids and parents who made the trip to Notre Dame.
“It was more about the Notre Dame mystique and the college experience, really, for our kids,” Setzke said. “It was our third time down there. Our kids love it. They want to go back every year, but unfortunately, we’re not going to be able to now because we can’t control what other teams are going to be there.”
Still, Roberts insists the current MHSAA rule is the right one.
“The way to limit it is the way we do it,” he said. “Our schools do not travel nor play or practice against those who do travel. Both sides of that equation makes for an effective rule.”
The side prohibiting schools from even being at an event with a team from more than 300 miles away is preposterous.
The truly disturbing thing is that our state has a free-agency situation where kids are transferring schools at an alarming rate and undue influence appears to be at an all-time high, yet this 300-mile rule seems to be the one rule the MHSAA is obsessed with enforcing.
Contact Mick McCabe: 313-223-4744 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @mickmccabe1.