Following a new executive order from Michigan governor Gretchen Whitmer on Thursday, the MHSAA has reinstated football into the fall sports calendar.
Competition for boys soccer, girls swimming and volleyball had previously been restricted to the northernmost parts of the state; Thursday's announcement by the MHSAA opened up play in those sports as well.
"I'm super excited that a whole bunch of kids who have been in this long-term holding pattern and really wanted to compete, now get to do so," said Grand Haven Athletic Director Scott Robertson. "That's super cool."
Football teams will pick up their seasons in Week 4 on the weekend of Sept. 17 and 18 after padded practices start early next week. A six-game regular season will take place before the state playoffs, which will include all teams and start on the weekend of Oct. 30-31.
“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 in a release. “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."
According to the Detroit Free Press, even after initially postponing the season to the spring, the MHSAA continued to entertain the idea of playing in the fall. Roadblocks such as weather in the Upper Peninsula slowly changed their minds.
“With 25 states practicing and playing games and another eight states ready to go in a couple of days, it’s different than three weeks ago,” MHSAA executive director Mark Uyl told the Free Press. “You’re seeing states, whose COVID-19 numbers are far worse than Michigan’s. It has been, nationwide, a very successful start to the year.”
Competition in the other three sports that had been delayed will begin Wednesday. Those teams had been practicing until this point while their seasons hung in the balance.
With most of the state still in Phase 4 of the state's recovery plan, two spectators will be allowed per participant for both indoor and outdoor events. An additional requirement from this executive order notes that facial coverings are worn during indoor play, with swimming exempted.
Mike Farley, who was hired as the Buccaneers' varsity football coach during the offseason, was not ready to comment as he was at practice with his team when news broke about the season being reinstated.
Robertson said he's confident Farley and his squad will be ready to go come Sept. 17.
"Our coach, and I think most coaches throughout the state, have been utilizing the 16 days they were given," Robertson said. "Mike has been doing that. It's not like our kids have been sitting on their cans the entire time. ... The challenge for Mike will be, this is his first year with us. He didn't get a chance to do much in the spring with kids, didn't get a chance to do 7-on-7s during the summer. He most definitely will have his work cut out for him, as will the kids, learning his system. But I think he and the kids will be excited to do that."
The MHSAA's release from Uyl noted several factors that changed the athletic association's mind on allowing sports such as football to restart, including "successful starts" in cross country, golf and tennis in recent weeks as well as 25 other states starting practice and games safely in August with another eight starting soon.
Gov. Whitmer's executive order opens indoor gyms that had been closed for five and a half months, while opening indoor pools and fitness centers in the rest of the state. The order will go in effect next Wednesday, Sept. 9.
The order also recommended against organized sports, mentioning that over 30 COVID-19 outbreaks involved sports teams and facilities in August.