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MHSAA Council Reinstates 2020 Football Season; Full Fall Competition Schedule Authorized


EAST LANSING, Mich. – Sept. 3 – The Fall 2020 football season has been reinstated today by the Representative Council of the Michigan High School Athletic Association after Governor Gretchen
Whitmer’s Executive Order 176 lifted restrictions that previously did not allow the sport to be played.
Whitmer’s executive order also allows for an immediate start of competition boys soccer; Lower Peninsula girls swimming & diving and girls volleyball on Wednesday (Sept. 9) for schools located in Regions 1-5 and 7 based on the MI Safe Start Plan.  It also sets spectator limits of two per participant for outdoor and indoor events in Phase 4 of the MI Safe Start Plan. 

Statewide football, and competition in those regions for volleyball, soccer and swimming & diving, had been restricted as part of EO 160, which ordered gyms and pools to remain closed and required social distancing in competition to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in areas under Phase 4 of the Safe Start plan. Schools in Regions 6 and 8 have been able to play volleyball, soccer and swim because those regions have been under fewer restrictions while in Phase 5 of the reopening process.

The MHSAA’s Council had authorized on Aug. 20 the start of competition in volleyball, soccer and swim statewide, pending the authorization of that activity in the specific regions by Whitmer’s office. The Council also on Aug 14. postponed the Fall 2020 football season to Spring 2021, but voted today to allow for a shortened season this fall.

Schools are not required to play any of those sports this fall, and may postpone until the spring. However, the MHSAA will conduct its postseason events in those four sports only for the Fall 2020 season.

 “We are thankful for the opportunity for kids to get back on the field in all fall sports, and we appreciate Governor Whitmer providing that opportunity with Executive Order 176 ,” MHSAA Executive Director Mark Uyl said. “We share the Governor’s priorities of putting health and safety first, and the COVID-19 guidance and protocols designed by the MHSAA at her request have led to the safe starts in all sports across the state.

“Thirty three other states are currently participating in all fall sports, and the MHSAA and its member schools are committed to doing this as safely as possible.  We are ready to again provide those experiences to students and communities that have hoped for a return of some normalcy. Given the challenges of online education in many school districts across the state, providing sports and a daily routine may be more important than ever in motivating students and providing a safe outlet for physical activity, competition and socialization.”

Football teams previously had been allowed to practice in helmets only during the traditional first week of practice, which began Aug. 10, and then during Council-approved offseason “contact” days beginning Aug. 24. With the reinstatement of this fall’s season, football teams must cease all activity until Tuesday, Sept. 8, then practice two days in helmets and shoulder pads before adding full pads Sept. 10.

They may begin regular-season games Sept. 18, and will play six games beginning with their originally-scheduled Week 4 contests.  All football teams in 11 and 8-player football will qualify for the playoffs during this fall’s shortened season, and then advance through their usual postseason progression with 8-Player Finals the weekend of Nov. 27-28 and 11-Player Finals the weekend of Dec. 4-5.

All other Fall 2020 tournaments will be conducted as previously scheduled.

The MHSAA is a private, not-for-profit corporation of voluntary membership by more than 1,500 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.  
 

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MHSAA pushes football to spring


Red Hawk Miles Cartwright knocks down a Forest Hills Northern pass during their last game in the OK-White conference last fall, where they took their second consecutive championship. Photo by J. Harnden.

By Judy Reed

After two consecutive championships in the OK-White, Red Hawk players, coaches and fans were looking forward to their matchups this fall in the OK-Gold. And until late last week, it looked like the Michigan High School Athletic Association was going to let the season proceed as long as all the COVID-19 safeguards were being followed. But it was not to be.

On Friday, August 14, the Representative Council of the MHSAA announced it will move the 2020 Fall football season to Spring 2021, due to football’s higher risk for spreading COVID-19, with the rest of Fall sports proceeding as scheduled.

According to a news release from the MHSAA, the football season switch was made based on consultation with state health department   officials and after surveying MHSAA member high schools on their progress and preferences after the first four days of practice. Football is considered a high-risk sport for potential spread of the COVID-19 virus because of its level of player-to-player contact.

A total of 34,219 student-athletes played football at MHSAA member schools during the 2019 season. A total of 520 11-player teams and 83 8-player teams were anticipated during late summer to play football this fall season.

“At the end of the day, we did everything we could to find a path forward for football this fall,” MHSAA Executive Director Mark Uyl said. “But while continuing to connect with the Governor’s office, state health department officials, our member schools’ personnel and the Council, there is just too much uncertainty and too many unknowns to play football this fall.

“No one is willing to take the risk of COVID being passed on because of a high-risk sport. Decisions have to be made on our other sports as well, but none of those carry the same close, consistent, and face-to-face contact as football.”

Some Michigan athletic directors and coaches have posted on social media that they never received the survey. John Norton, CAA, the Athletic Director for Cedar Springs Public Schools, told the Post he did receive the survey, but was in favor of continuing the season. 

“The survey came from the MHSAA executive director late in the day and was due the next morning,” he explained. “The survey asked for our opinions on basically all Fall sports and (not sure of exact wording) but if we wanted to continue on/ or if we thought it was safe to continue on for each sport. I responded that I felt we were at a point, in regards to safety of coaches and athletes, that we could continue on with all the fall sports, football included.”

Norton thinks the team may have been safer playing football than not.

“I feel the MHSAA has put some serious and strict safeguards in place that have made competitive school athletics an extremely safe environment for our coaches and kids.  Personally, without sports or without football specifically, I do not know if our student-athletes will be as conscious about wearing masks, hygiene, social distancing and gathering in large groups on their own time. While I know this is an unpredictable virus that can do serious harm, we will never be able to completely eliminate that risk, but I feel our athletic venues are a safe place where the risk of transmission has been drastically reduced compared to sectors of our society.   

“A lot of time and extra work by school administrators, coaches and custodians, along with guidance from the health department and the MHSAA have helped to make our facilities a place where I feel the transmission of Covid-19 is reduced and at a low risk, but I am also not a medical professional.”

Head football coach Gus Kapolka shared what he was feeling about the announcement with the Cedar Springs football family and fans through Facebook. “I would like to reach out to the Cedar Springs Football Family in this time of uncertainty and reassure everyone that this postponement is a minor setback. For the past week, we have grown together as a team, family and community. I believe that this cruel act of injustice will not end us, nor will it define us. It will only serve to make us stronger, toughen our resolve, and focus our efforts. 

“I do not know what the future will bring, but I look forward to a day that I can hug each and everyone of you again and tell you how much you mean to me, and we can share that brotherhood in pursuit of our dreams. Someday very soon, ‘Hell’s Bells’ will play over the loudspeakers, while a Red & Black clad team will take the field in front of an entire small town, and all will be right with the world on a Friday Night. But until that day, never take anything for granted, and covet each day we have together as a gift. Until that day….Go Red Hawks.”

The team continued practicing together through Wednesday. An announcement of some kind was expected Wednesday on what spring football might look like but was postponed until Thursday.

Meanwhile there is a protest movement afoot, made up of thousands of fans and parents, protesting the MHSAA decision. The group, called Let Michigan High School football play!!, is active on Facebook and has done several interviews about the impact of the MHSAA’s decision, and hopes to get them to reverse it.

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Tournament changes in three sports


From the MHSAA

The addition of seeding at the District level in basketball and soccer and multiple adjustments to the process used to select the playoff field for 11-player football were among the most notable actions taken by the Representative Council of the Michigan High School Athletic Association during its annual Summer Meeting, May 5-6 in Gaylord.

The Spring Meeting of the 19-member legislative body of the Association’s more than 1,500 member schools is generally the busiest of its three sessions each year. The Council considered 26 committee proposals and dealt with a variety of eligibility rule, postseason tournament and operational issues.

Beginning with the 2019-20 school year, girls and boys basketball and soccer will employ a seeding process to place the top two teams in every District on opposite sides of that bracket, guaranteeing those two teams could not play each other before the District championship game.

The two teams to be seeded in each District will be determined using a Michigan Power Ratings computer formula based on regular-season results against other MHSAA Tournament-eligible teams and opponents’ strength of schedule. (Games against out-of-state or non-MHSAA opponents will not count in the MPR formula.) The MHSAA will draw all brackets two weeks before the start of District play. After the top seeds are determined and separated to opposite sides of the bracket, the draw process will place the remaining teams on the bracket based on a randomly selected order determined earlier in the season. However, the draw process does not guarantee the seeded teams will receive byes or serve as home teams.

The MPR is being used this spring to seed the Boys Lacrosse Tournament. Separate seeding proposals were recommended to the Council by the MHSAA committees for both soccer and basketball.

The changes to the 11-Player Football Playoffs selection process were proposed by the MHSAA Football Committee and are designed to reward teams that play more successful opponents. Beginning with the 2020 season, eight divisions will be determined before the season, and 32 playoff qualifiers from each division will be selected at the end of the regular season based on playoff-point average. There no longer will be automatic qualification based on win total. The adjusted playoff points formula will award bonus points for all opponents’ wins, regardless of whether the team beat or lost to those opponents. Currently bonus points are awarded only if the team defeated an opponent. More points also are awarded for defeating teams from larger divisions. The Football Committee proposed these changes believing the bonus points received for a “good loss”—combined with the elimination of automatic qualifiers—will be enough incentive for teams to schedule more successful opponents, easing the annual difficulty in football scheduling and taking away arguably the most cited reason for the breakup of leagues and conferences.

Also on recommendation by the Football Committee, the Council approved an enrollment limit of 215 students for teams to be eligible for the MHSAA 8-Player Playoffs. This too will take effect for the 2020 season. Currently, a school must be Class D to be eligible for the postseason, or in a one-year grace period if it grew larger than Class D for the current school year. While the Class D enrollment line changes annually, the 8-player line of 215 students will remain static year to year. The grace period also will remain for schools that might receive a one-year enrollment bump before falling back below 215 students.

The Council also approved a committee recommendation to add limited video review of scoring plays or potential scoring plays, or of turnovers or potential turnovers at MHSAA Football Finals for both the 11 and 8-player formats. This process will be available at Finals only because of the availability of camera coverage provided by broadcasts of those highest-level games of the tournament. Although all scoring and turnover plays could be reviewed, a play will be reversed only when there is indisputable video evidence showing the original call was incorrect.

Continuing its focus on safety in football, the Council also approved a committee recommendation to adopt revised definitions and limits on contact allowed during preseason practices and practices after games have begun. Beginning with this 2019 football season, teams will be allowed no more than six hours of full-pads collision contact per week during the preseason and no more than 30 minutes of collision contact during a week of in-season (after games begin) practice. “Collision” is defined as contact at game speed, with the execution of full tackles at a competitive pace, taking players to the ground.

However, while “collision” contact will be limited, “thud” contact will be unlimited. “Thud” is defined as full speed but above the waist only, with no player taken to the ground and no winner or loser. Thud contact is not considered collision contact. The revised definitions of “collision” and “thud” and related time limitations are products of collaboration between the MHSAA, Michigan High School Football Coaches Association and Practice Like Pros, a national movement dedicated to safety in high school football. The recommendation was brought to the Football Committee by leadership of the Michigan High School Football Coaches Association and further defines the degree and amount of practice contact following similar practice safety changes approved by the Council for football in 2014 and 2017.

The new sport-specific transfer rule will take effect with the 2019-20 school year, and the Council approved a series of corresponding changes. Most notably, the Council approved a change to the athletic-related (links) rule to not grant immediate eligibility with a residential change if a student follows a coach from his or her former school to a school where the coach has been newly hired. The Council also approved a sport-specific penalty for the athletic-motivated transfer rule so that a student would not be eligible during the current school year in the sport played the previous school year if that student was confirmed to have made an athletic-motivated transfer.

The Council additionally approved clarifications under the sport-specific transfer rule for multi-school districts which have schools that are both geographical boundary schools and schools which are district-wide, for students transferring to nonpublic or charter schools and for students who have taken part in international student exchange programs and chosen to stay in Michigan.

To provide consistency for officials’ jurisdiction across all sports, the Council approved the addition of wording that allows an official to disqualify a student or coach following the conclusion of a contest—but before the official has left the facility and/or grounds—if that student or coach commits an offense worthy of ejection and disqualification against the official. (Example: A player or coach verbally berates an official while following that official to his or her vehicle.) This penalty also would include the next-day-of-competition suspension. This does not apply if the official has remained at the facility and encounters the offense while as a spectator for another event.

To read a summary of other notable actions taken by the Representative Council at the Spring Meeting, go to https://www.mhsaa.com/News/Press-Releases/articleType/ArticleView/articleId/8205/MHSAA-Representative-Council-Adopts-Tournament-Changes-in-3-Sports-at-Spring-Meeting to read the entire news release.

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Cedar Springs shuts out Ottawa Hills 48-0


Cedar Springs ran away with the game against Grand Rapids Ottawa Hills last Friday, 48-0. Courtesy photo.

By Judy Reed

The Cedar Springs Red Hawks varsity football team won their seventh straight game last Friday, October 12, when they traveled to Houseman Field to take on GR Ottawa Hills Bengals.

The Red Hawks controlled the game from the very first quarter, limiting the Bengals to only 47 yards and one first down the entire game. 

“I was pleased with the way our guys went out and took care of business,” said Red Hawks Coach Gus Kapolka. “We were focused and executed well, which sometimes is hard to do when you are playing an opponent who has a 1-6 record.”

Cedar scored early in the first quarter when Ryan Ringler ran up the middle for a 49-yard touchdown with 11:32 left on the clock. Ethan West’s run into the endzone for the two-point conversion was good.

The Red Hawks scored again in the first quarter with 4:43 left when Sage Serbenta ran left for a one-yard touchdown, and Kolby Swank then ran in the extra points.

They scored again with 2:09 left in the first when Ryan Ringler blocked a punt from Ottawa Hills, and Cedar scored a safety. The score at the end of the first was Cedar Springs 18, Ottawa Hills 0.

The Red Hawks scored three times in the second quarter. With 10:07 left on the clock, Ben Shaw ran up the middle for a 23-yard touchdown and Kolby Swank ran in the extra points. Three minutes later they scored again when Sage Serbenta ran one yard into the endzone for the touchdown and then Ethan West ran in the two-point conversion. They scored again at the 2:20 mark when Landon Totten ran left for a 10-yard touchdown, and took the ball into the endzone again for the two-point conversion. The score at the end of the half was Cedar Springs 42, Ottawa Hills 0.

Neither team scored during the third quarter, but the Red Hawks scored one more time in the fourth. With 2:11 left on the clock, Jeremy Campione ran up the middle for a 2-yard touchdown, then Campione attempted a pass to Zack Shmid for the extra points, but it was no good.

The Red Hawks accumulated 380 yards rushing, with Ryan Ringler (92), Sage Serbenta (77), and Landon Totten (63) leading the way. Ben Shaw added 44, Jeremy Campione 30, Lucus Pienton 21, Gage Gardner 16, and Zack Schmid 14. Swank added 4 yards rushing, and 4 yards passing.

On defense, Kaden Liggett led in tackles with 6 and Miles Cartwright had 5. The rest of the team had 3 or less each.

The Red Hawks sealed at least a share of the conference title with the win, and as they are now only one game away from the playoffs, Kapolka was happy to give some of the younger players a chance to get some experience on the gridiron.

“We were able to play a lot of young guys in the second half, and those game reps are invaluable for them moving forward,” he said.

This Friday Cedar Springs (7-1, 5-0) hosts Forest Hills Northern (5-3, 3-2) in their last regular season game. Come on out and cheer them on!

Please note that according to Cedar Springs Athletic Director John Norton, the MHSAA has raised District Ticket prices to $6 moving forward. So be prepared as you head off to post-season events. This will include all playoff football games as well. And remember, even if the event is at Cedar Springs, no passes are accepted during post-season play.

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Be the Referee


By Mark Uyl, Asst. Director, MHSAA

Always first and goal during overtime

In Michigan, football overtime for each team starts with first and goal at the 10-yard line. Other states which allow overtime begin anywhere from the 10 to the 25-yard line, and in some of those states, you could actually pick up a first down while on offense.

But Michigan is always first and goal. Even in those situations where a dead ball foul from the end of the first team’s possession in an overtime may start the second team’s series at the 25, it is still first and goal.

The only way a team on offense can pick up a first down in overtime is on a penalty providing yardage plus an automatic first down, and those are only the roughing calls: roughing the passer, the kicker, the holder and the long snapper.

Be the Referee is a weekly message from the Michigan High School Athletics Association that is designed to help educate people on the rules in different sports, to help them better understand the art of officiating, and to recruit officials.

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Fall sports begin, rule changes


 

This fall, two football game dates again precede Labor Day, and a number of MHSAA schools will play their first varsity games Thursday, Aug. 23. Cedar Springs will travel to Saginaw Swan Valley on Thursday, August 23, for their first game of the season. Swan Valley went 12-2 last year, but was beat in the state finals by West Catholic. Cedar Springs will play their second game at home on Thursday, August 30 against Caledonia.

For fall sports, perhaps the most discussed change will concern MHSAA Tournament classification in volleyball. For the first time, volleyball teams are classified in four equal divisions instead of the traditional Class A-B-C-D. Class will no longer be used to organize the postseason for any sport, including girls and boys basketball in the winter. All other sports previously had switched from classes to divisions.

While most fall sports face at least minor rules changes this season, a few of the most noticeable adjustments in fall sports will come in football, volleyball, boys soccer and girls swimming & diving.

  • In an effort to improve football pace of play by reducing re-kicks after a free or scrimmage kick (generally kickoffs or punts, respectively), an option has been added allowing the receiving team to accept a penalty and tack on the awarded yardage to the spot where the kick or punt return ended. This option incentivizes the receiving team to forgo a re-kick, and joins three other options after a penalty on the kicking team. The receiving team also may continue to accept a penalty from the previous spot and have the kicking team re-kick; and on kickoffs that travel out of bounds, the receiving team may continue to accept the ball and begin possession 25 yards from where the kickoff occurred or decline the penalty and begin possession where the kick flew out of bounds.
  • Additionally for football, players who fail to properly wear required equipment or are missing required equipment during a down shall be replaced for one down rather than incur a yardage penalty. Previously, a penalty was assessed for delay of game in this scenario. If a player’s proper or legal equipment has become improperly worn through use and prompt repair is possible and does not cause a delay in game, that repair may be made without the player being replaced for the next down.
  • A change in volleyball will allow teams to substitute for an injured/ill player prior to a replay; previously a replay would take place with no changes on the floor after the point was originally contested.
  • Also in volleyball, with an eye on risk minimization, teams will be allowed to warm-up between sets only in their playing area and may not hit volleyballs over the net into the opponents’ playing area.
  • For soccer – both boys this fall and girls in the spring – teams may continue to play up to two multi-team events every season, but beginning this fall a multi-team event can include two full 80-minute games the same day and still be counted as only one of a team’s 18 regular-season contests. Teams also may continue to play multi-team events with 30-minute halves and no more than 180 minutes total in one day (for example, three games with 30-minute halves) and call it just one contest of the 18.
  • Another significant soccer change will switch the home team to wearing the dark uniform and the away team to wearing the white uniform. The change was made to allow home teams to wear their school colors – it does not require teams to purchase new uniforms, but only switches which team wears dark and which wears white.
  • Also for soccer, a change has been made to the penalty when a player is whistled for denying the other team an obvious goal-scoring opportunity. If a player, in the penalty area, commits an infraction while attempting to play the ball, and that infraction results in a penalty kick, that offending player will receive a yellow card – previously this would have been a red card. If the player is not attempting to play the ball when an infraction is called in the penalty area that results in a penalty kick, the offending player still will receive a red card along with the opposing team being awarded the penalty kick.

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MHSAA adopts revised transfer regulation at spring meeting


 

 

The adoption of major changes to the Michigan High School Athletic Association transfer regulation was among notable actions taken by the Representative Council during its annual Spring Meeting, May 6-7, in Gaylord.

The Spring Meeting of the 19-member legislative body of the Association’s more than 1,400 member schools is generally the busiest of its three sessions each year. The Council considered 29 committee proposals and dealt with a variety of eligibility rule, postseason tournament and operational issues.

The revised transfer regulation will go into effect for the 2019-20 school year, based on a student-athlete’s sports participation during 2018-19. The new transfer rule will make transferring student-athletes ineligible for one year in any sport played during the previous year at the previous school—unless that student-athlete’s situation fits one of the current 15 exceptions that allow for immediate eligibility. However, the revised transfer regulation also allows that transferring student-athlete immediate eligibility in any other MHSAA-sponsored sport not participated in during that previous year at the previous school.

 The additions to the transfer rule received vast support from member schools in surveys leading up to the Council’s vote.

 “We are hopeful this ‘sport-specific’ transfer rule will be easier to understand, and therefore, more consistently enforced,” MHSAA Executive Director John E. “Jack” Roberts said. “This rule better addresses the changing landscape of transfers, hopefully dissuading those considering moving for athletic reasons while still allowing a full range of sports for those who do switch. It may seem like a punishment to some, but the new rule is actually more permissive for many transfer students, and we saw growing support for these changes from our schools since we began discussing this proposal a year ago.”

To read about other changes made at the spring meeting, read the entire article at https://www.mhsaa.com/News/Press-Releases/articleType/ArticleView/articleId/7243/MHSAA-Representative-Council-Adopts-Revised-Transfer-Regulation-at-Spring-Meeting.

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MHSAA Representative Council Selects Mark Uyl as Next Executive Director


 

Mark Uyl

EAST LANSING, Mich. – Mark Uyl, formerly a high school teacher, coach and administrator and currently an assistant director for the Michigan High School Athletic Association and one of the nation’s most respected voices in sports officiating, has been selected as the next executive director of the MHSAA by its Representative Council.

He will succeed retiring Executive Director John E. “Jack” Roberts in August. Roberts, who has served as executive director since the fall of 1986, announced his retirement April 24.

Uyl (pronounced yule), 44, joined the MHSAA staff in January 2004 and coordinates the Association’s nearly 10,000 officials in addition to serving as director of baseball and administrator of the MHSAA’s catastrophic and concussion care insurance plans. He also has served as director of cross country and wrestling during his tenure.

As assistant director, Uyl was instrumental as the MHSAA became the first state high school athletics association to offer concussion care insurance, which provides gap coverage to assist in covering costs for athletes who are injured while participating in MHSAA-sponsored sports. As an official himself, Uyl has worked to build a stronger relationship with those working high school events that has included an increase in training and support. As a sport director, Uyl has sought to create the best experiences for Michigan high school teams, including with the move of the MHSAA Baseball and Softball Finals to Michigan State University in 2014.

“The foundation built here by Jack Roberts over the last 32 years is the strongest in the country, and I’m honored to have the opportunity to lead our staff in building on that foundation,” Uyl said. “There will be many ways we’ll continue to protect the same values of educational athletics, while also looking for new ways and new opportunities to best serve the students and our member schools in Michigan.”

In addition to his full-time MHSAA duties, Uyl has officiated collegiate baseball since 1997 and is regarded as one of the best at that level. In addition to umpiring major conference baseball all over the United States, Uyl was part of the crews for the 2014 and 2017 College World Series. He also officiated college football for 12 years with several NCAA postseason assignments, and did serve as coordinator of officials for the Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association. He was registered with the MHSAA for at least three sports beginning in 1992 and worked the Baseball Finals in 1999.

Additionally, Uyl served on the board of directors of the National Association of Sports Officials (NASO) from 2012-15 and as its chairperson during his final year. Currently, he serves as the high school representative on the Officiating Development Alliance (ODA), which consists of the supervisors of officials for the NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL, CFL, MLS and NCAA Division I sports.

The Council made its decision at the conclusion of its annual Spring Meeting on May 7 in Gaylord. Uyl will become only the fifth full-time executive in the MHSAA’s 94-year history, following Charles E. Forsythe (1931-42, 1945-68), Allen W. Bush (1968-78), Vern L. Norris (1978-86) and Roberts.

“Mark has spent the past 14 years as a highly effective assistant director for the MHSAA,” said Representative Council President Scott Grimes, who serves as Assistant Superintendent of Human Services for Grand Haven Area Public Schools. “He is a proven leader in the organization committed to providing outstanding service to both internal and external constituents. The positive relationships he has fostered with school administrators will help make this a very smooth transition.”

Prior to his time at the MHSAA, Uyl first taught and coached and then served as athletic director and assistant principal at Middleville-Thornapple Kellogg High School, the latter from 2001-03. Before becoming an administrator there, Uyl served as athletic director at Caledonia High School in 2000-01.

During his tenure as an assistant director at the MHSAA, Uyl also served a four-year term on the Baseball Committee for the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS).

“Mark was the obvious choice to become the next executive director of the MHSAA,” Roberts said. “Mark has the proper student-focused perspective of educational athletics, excellent person-to-person communications skills and a deep practical understanding of what is happening day to day in school sports in our state and nationally.”

Uyl graduated from Caledonia High School in 1992, and from Calvin College in 1996 with a bachelor’s degree in history and physical education. He later received a master’s in educational leadership from Grand Valley State University. At Calvin, Uyl was a four-year starter on the baseball team, earning all-conference honors twice and serving as team captain.

Uyl resides in DeWitt with his wife Marcy, an accomplished educator and coach who has served as a high school varsity basketball coach since 1994. They have three children: Jackson (17), Grant (15) and Madison (11).

The MHSAA is a private, not-for-profit corporation of voluntary membership by more than 1,500 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.

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How basketball games should be


The Hawks Nest student section during the pink out game against Lowell last Friday, January 26. Photo by K&R Lalone.

By Judy Reed

The Cedar Springs Red Hawks’ student section—the Hawks Nest—just barely missed making it as a top three finalist for MHSAA’s Battle of the Fans VII. But they are winners none-the-less.

“Our student body has been absolutely fantastic this year. In fact, I believe it has been the best it has been in many years,” said teacher and coach Justin Harnden, who has been working with the student Athletic Leadership Council to create a culture that positive and supportive for all fans and teams. “A large amount of students have taken the challenge of changing the culture of our student section and making it a positive experience for everyone.”  

Cedar Springs was chosen as one of nine semi-finalists and one of three in Class A, on January 16. They then had 12 days to step up their game and show what they could do, and record it on social media. On January 23, almost 1,000 students cheered on a Special Olympics basketball game between Cedar Springs and Sparta—and they cheered for both sides. They also cheered at pink out games for girls and boys basketball. During last Friday’s pink out boys basketball game against Lowell, the positive spirit they showed made a big impact on at least one of the opposing team’s fans.  

Joel Fritsma, a Red Arrow fan, posted this on Twitter: “Shoutout to @CedarALC for the hospitality Friday night! The pink out was really fitting. Quite the SS you guys have put together this year! Keep up the great work, and best of luck towards moving on in the #BOTF rankings! – A Lowell Student #HowBasketballGamesShouldBe”

Harnden said that sentiment really exemplies all that they have done this year. 

“There have been a large amount of great moments the past two sports seasons that are highlighted with one of the largest sections we have ever had for our Lowell football game, and partnering with the school Be Nice campaign for our Glow Out Bullying basketball game,” he said.

“While we were disappointed that we didn’t make the finals, everyone here is extremely proud of all the we have done and we absolutely will try again next year. The upperclassmen that we currently have put forth so much effort into the shift and they have laid the groundwork for everyone else to follow.”  

Harnden hopes the positive impact of the campaign extends beyond school walls. “I hope that the positive shift resonates with not just our students, but our community as well. Everyone leading and pushing in a supportive way makes the games so much fun to be a part of and when we can lead the shift out of the student section we can make a much bigger difference in the lives of many other people,” he explained. 

Boyne City, Buchanan and Petoskey were selected as finalists by MHSAA’s Student Advisory Council. Voting among the top five semifinalists was particularly close, according to the MHSAA. Cedar Springs and Charlotte just missed earning spots among the top three. Munising, Negaunee, Pellston and Traverse City West also were among the semifinalists.

“Charlotte and Cedar Springs were very close to becoming part of this year’s finalists tour,” said Andy Frushour, MHSAA director of brand management and advisor to the Student Advisory Council. “Both have established incredible fan cultures, and we certainly plan on seeing them in this contest again next year.”
Harnden agrees. 

“This year semi-finalists; next year champions,” he said.

Visit CedarSpringsTV on youtube.com to see several examples of the Hawks Nest in action during Battle of the Fans VII.

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Hawks Nest moves to semifinals in Battle of the Fans


Cedar Springs is one of nine schools across the state competing to win the “Battle of the Fans.” Courtesy photo.

Every athlete knows that there is a member of the team that doesn’t play on the field or court with them, but they are part of the team just the same—and that’s the fans that cheer them on. Anyone who has been to a Cedar Springs Red Hawks sporting event knows that the student section—the Hawks Nest—is one of the best around. And now the student section has a chance to prove it.

Teacher and Coach Justin Harnden has been working with the Athletic Leadership Council at the school to create a culture that’s positive and supportive to all fans and teams—including the opposing ones. And Tuesday morning he saw some of the fruits of that labor when it was announced by the MHSAA that Cedar Springs was one of nine schools chosen to continue on to the semifinals in the “Battle of the Fans VII” contest.

The Battle of the Fans was organized by the MHSAA staff and its 16-member Student Advisory Council. Schools were invited throughout the fall to submit short videos, via YouTube, of their cheering sections in action, with the deadline Jan. 13. Nine semifinalists were announced on Tuesday, January 16: Cedar Springs, Petoskey and Traverse City West from Class A; Boyne City, Buchanan and Charlotte from Class B; and Munising, Negaunee and Pellston from Class C/D. 

Instead of choosing five finalists as in past years, the Advisory Council selected nine semifinalists to accomplish a list of tasks showing off their sections over the next 12 days–and the Council will then select three finalists for MHSAA visits.

This year’s winner will be announced Feb. 23 and recognized March 23 at the Breslin Center.

Semifinalists are required to complete 10 challenges via their social media channels by 11 p.m. Jan. 27. Five mandatory challenges focus on contest criteria: positive sportsmanship, student body participation, school spirit, originality of cheers, organization of the group, student section leadership and overall fun.

Five elective challenges (taken from a list of 15 opportunities) will allow semifinalists more opportunities to show the unique characteristics that make their sections elite. 

“Our Student Advisory Council wanted to keep more of these great student sections involved in Battle of the Fans longer, and also make sure our best sections were showing their best on more than just the days they applied and we visited,” said Andy Frushour, MHSAA director of brand management and advisor to the Student Advisory Council. “The ‘Challenge Round’ sets up a true competition as these nine schools watch and try to outdo each other’s best work over the next 12 days. We’re excited to watch them step up their games to answer the competition.”

Harnden was pleased that they had been chosen to head on to the semifinals. “We have a lot of work to do, but we are up for it,” he said.

A total of 19 schools applied for this year’s contest – seven from Class A schools, six from Class B, four from Class C and two from Class D. Three semifinalists each were selected from the Class A, Class B and Class C/D applicants.

The Student Advisory Council will select the finalists for announcement Jan. 29 on Second Half. MHSAA staff and Student Advisory Council members will visit all three finalists for home basketball games during the second half of this regular season, with coverage and video from those visits and the announcement of the winner all to be published on Second Half.

The winner will be selected by another Advisory Council vote based in part on activity on the MHSAA’s social media sites. All social media postings regarding Battle of the Fans VII should include the hashtag #BOTF. The MHSAA will share semifinalists’ challenge posts over the next two weeks on its Facebook, Twitter and Instagram sites and Snapchat feed. The MHSAA also will post from the three finalists visits on those channels.

Cedar Springs will be using their social media sites on Facebook (CSHS Athletic Leadership Council) and Twitter (@CedarALC). Don’t forget to check them out and share their content!

To see the application video they put together, go to YouTube and search for CedarSpringsTV. Click on it, and then you will see their “Battle of the Fans” video listed.

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