Local athletic directors support MHSAA proposal

By Chip Burch • Last Updated 11:56 am on Thursday, August 02, 2012

A proposal to allow a limited exception for 19-year-old students to play high school sports has the support of a few local athletic directors.

Brian Zdanowski from Greenville, Joel Wilker from Belding and Larry Farmer from Carson City-Crystal support a proposal that was passed by the Michigan High School Athletic Association (MHSAA) on Monday.

The proposal would allow for “a waiver of its maximum age limitation under narrowly defined circumstances,” according to a press release from the MHSAA.

This proposal is in response to a 19-year-old Ishpeming student with Down syndrome who wishes to play basketball and football next year.

“We were OK within reason of exceptions,” Zdanowski said. “We didn’t think there would be a change in the maximum age rule.”

“I think certainly we don’t want to preclude someone who should be reasonably allowed to participate, but the key is consistency and making sure there are no loopholes,” Wilker said. “We need to understand the spirit of the law. It’s not to give kids extra eligibility. It’s to allow kids with certain disabilities to participate.”

“Normally when the MHSAA passes a ballot like that it’s something that was well thought-out,” Farmer said. “But I would have to read the proposal first before I know.”

Greenville already knows who would be a 19-year-old student and takes action beforehand, Zdanowski said.

“I know there are some kids in Greenville who will be 19 years old before a school year,” he said. “But we identified them in middle school and let them know about their athletic options.”

Farmer said Carson City-Crystal had a similar situation arise this year with students.

“We even had a situation this year where two students were 19 and wanted to play sports, and we petitioned the MHSAA to allow them to be eligible, but with the current rule the petition was denied,” he said. “We hope this change will allow those students (in a similar situation) to participate in the future.”

Because there is a bylaw in the MHSAA constitution that forbids anyone who is 19 years old before a school year from participating in sports, a two-thirds vote from member schools is needed to change the bylaw.

Wilker doesn’t want to see new rule abused, though.

“If the rule is well thought-out and is such that can be consistent and it doesn’t give anyone a particular advantage then I support it,” he said.

Ballots will be emailed to member schools this week, and results will be announced by the MHSAA on May 31. The change, if approved, will be effective for the start of the 2012-2013 school year.