MHSAA Is Researching 4 Seasons Proposal

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LANSING, Mich. (AP) -- The Michigan High School Athletic Association is exploring an idea to use four somewhat overlapping seasons for prep sports, instead of the traditional three.
But there's no immediate plans to vote on the proposal, which would come after a court-ordered shakeup that went into effect this school year.
The proposal is being researched because some say the current schedule causes problems, particularly with boys' and girls' basketball in the same season. That was one of the major changes arising from the lengthy Michigan court case regarding equity between girls' and boys' sports schedules.
"The pressure of two basketball programs (girls and boys) in the same season is resulting in too many events for administrators to supervise, for officials to work, for media to cover and for fans to attend," MHSAA Executive Director Jack Roberts said in a statement Monday. "Revenue to local schools has dropped at a time they cannot afford to have it happen at. Students are practicing too early in the morning, too late at night or, if not, there are too few practices to teach athletes and prepare teams well."
The MHSAA opposed the court-ordered changes to Michigan's sports lineup. The MHSAA says it will not dictate changes for future schedules and is getting feedback on the idea from schools before deciding whether to further explore the option. There is no timeframe for deciding that, spokesman John Johnson said.
The MHSAA board likely would have to vote on the proposal by December for it to take effect in the 2009-10 school year.
Kristen Galles, a Virginia-based lawyer who successfully represented plaintiffs in the lawsuit to change Michigan's sports season, said the MHSAA is being too hasty. She said the organization should allow more time to better measure how recent changes to the seasons play out.
"They are trying to get around the court order," Galles said. "They should let things settle in and see what happens."
The changes that soon could be under consideration would provide four separate starting points for prep sports. Major sports would remain in their general time slot, but would be staggered to avoid scheduling conflicts.
The end of girls' volleyball season would overlap with the start of girls' basketball in mid-November, which Galles said is a problem with the proposal. The girls' basketball season would start and end earlier than the boys' basketball season, eliminating a few weeks of overlap.
The end of the boys' basketball season, with tournaments that would extend into late March and early April, could overlap with the start of spring sports.
Girls' gymnastics season could move to the fall from its current winter slot.
An MHSAA survey released late last year found that overall participation in fall sports stayed about the same this year, but some sports may have been affected by the season change.
About 15 percent more girls participated in cross country this fall compared with the previous year while participation in boys Lower Peninsula tennis dropped about 11 percent. There was a roughly 9 percent drop in girls' Lower Peninsula golf participation.

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