State OKs eight-player football 6.24.09

Written by David Green.

The Michigan High School Athletic Association last month approved a plan for an eight-player football playoff division.

 Only those Class D schools with a maximum enrollment of 223 for the 2009-10 school year will be eligible for the eight-player division playoff.  Schools with enrollments too large for the MHSAA eight-player playoff division may still sponsor eight-player teams.

Games may take place during the regular season between schools which have declared for the eight-player or eleven-player division of post-season play, but those games will not count toward playoff or bonus points.

Eight-player competitions will comply with National Federation playing rules, and the field size approved by the Council for MHSAA Playoff games will be the traditional 100 yards from goal line to goal line, with the width of the field only 40 yards, to allow for games to be played on existing fields with a minimum of physical changes.  The MHSAA will also facilitate a meeting of schools sponsoring eight-player football to assist them in the development of regular-season schedules.

“The option of an eight-player division will benefit our smaller schools which have struggled to maintain sufficient numbers to sponsor football programs, and at the same time create an opportunity for other members of similar size to offer the football experience,” said Jack Roberts, executive director of the MHSAA.

In looking toward the 2010 season, schools will have to indicate in writing on two occasions—Nov. 19 by the athletic administrator, and then April 1, 2010 by the superintendent—their commitment to the eight-player division. If a minimum of 20 schools commit to the eight-player format, the MHSAA will conduct a 16-team, four-week playoff in 2010. If more than 40 schools commit, a 32-team, five week playoff will take place.

• OUT OF SEASON—Four changes were made to out-of-season regulations effective Aug. 1, 2009. The requirement that out-of-season “open gyms” have a diversity of activity was eliminated; but there will continue to be an emphasis that no organized drills, practice structure or sport instruction take place.

Schools will now be allowed to use non-competition practice jerseys at out-of-season camps and competitions.

The “three-player” rule has been increased to a four-player rule for all sports out-of-season during the school year for coach-athlete interaction, provided practice or competition with students or others not enrolled in that school district does not take place. 

Finally, the limited-player rule (three or four) will now end on the Monday following Memorial Day beginning with the 2009-10 school year, rather than ending on the final day of classes for each school.

• SOFTBALL—Beginning in 2009-10, the international tiebreaker rule will be used in all MHSAA softball tournament contests beginning in the 11th inning; and the rule may be used by league or conference adoption for regular-season games any time after seven innings. The international tiebreaker rule takes the player who was the last batter for a team in its last at-bat, and places that player at second base to begin the inning.

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