By GREG GIELCZYK

NORTHERN MICHIGAN - Right now, the Michigan High School Athletic Association (MHSAA) is planning on fall sports as usual, or as close to usual as it can get amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

During her press latest press conference, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said she was interested in the possibility of moving the spring sports, which have the least physical contact, to the fall. Then switch football, which has considerable physical contact, to the spring.

She's leaving it up to the MHSAA to come up with a game plan for sports.

"We're really thankful that the governor has given us the opportunity to write the policy on this," said Geoff Kimmerly, media and content co-ordinator for the MHSAA in a phone interview.

"The MHSAA is going to be the one that puts this together, and everything that we've done since March has been in co-ordination with her guidelines, her office and the state health department.

"Whatever we do going forward, I'm sure will be exactly the same. There's a great channel of communication there, so we're going to work with the governor's office, but we're going to be writing the policy on this."

Kimmerly says that determination of a season flip will be made in about three weeks. If the state is not where it needs to be in the governor's Michigan Safe Start Plan, he says that switch is a very real possibility.

"I would say we are going to have four or five contingency plans," Kimmerly said by phone. "That (one) will be right there at the top. We're really needing the entire state to be in Phase 5 with her game plan.

"The rest of us down here are still in Phase 4. It is realistic, I think, to talk about it. We have talked to a lot of people who do not want to make the season flip like that, but if it's the other option of not playing anything at all, I think that that will win out. We have a ways to go, though."

Semi-pro football teams have started their seasons in Traverse City and Petoskey, with this part of the state in Phase 5. But teams in parts of the state still in Phase 4 can throw passes, but defenses are not permitted to cover the receivers. Full contact is forbidden.

Kimmerly says the MHSAA's desire is to afford everyone the opportunity to do as much as possible as soon as possible under the circumstances, and just asks that everyone continue to work with the guidelines.

Social distancing is extremely difficult in football, soccer and lacrosse. Girls volleyball would be tough as well since it is an indoor sport with crowds gathered in a confined space. Same with girls swimming and diving in the Lower Peninsula.
It's a sport by sport process, Kimmerly added.

"Our directors are working on them (precautions)," he said. "Nationally, the national federation has created documents sport by sport. I saw the football one with suggestions like extending the team boxes to the 10-yard line, and things as detailed as how frequently has the person who has the football clean them.

"We're going to think this through to the finest detail. But, there is some degree of contact when you play these sports that just can't be eliminated. It's the option of not playing at all."

Phase 5 allows for a larger number of fans to be in attendance, but Kimmerly admitted there is a very real possibility that full crowds will not be permitted for any sport this fall, indoors or outside.

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