By David Fleet
GHS Senior quarterback Aidan Rubio and his Martian football teammates were on the field and had just completed stretching exercises when the news arrived.
“The coach brought us together as a team and let us know about the season,” said Rubio, 17. “We all took a collective deep breath. During the first week of practice the conversation was, ‘if we have a season,’ especially when the Big 10 and the MAC cancelled the fall season. It’s bitter sweet, I did not like how we were lead on about playing and then it was taken from us.”
Rubio’s reaction on Aug. 14 followed the Representative Council of the Michigan High School Athletic Association announcement to 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 statement 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 big challenge is going to be the weather this spring,” said Rubio, who at 6-foot-5 inches and 190 pounds has had offers from Division 1 College teams in both football and basketball. “We are used to having the snow and weather coming at the end of the fall season, not at the beginning.”
Rubio, who is considering basketball at Miami-Ohio or football at Morgan State emphasized the NCAA is not letting in-person recruiting happen right now.
“It’s really tough to get recognized right now, he said.
Rob McRae, Goodrich Athletic Director said it’s a tough situation for all school districts statewide.
“Every school district is in the same boat this fall,” said McRae. “It’s a very fluid time with regard to COVID and unfortunate for our student athletes heading on to college next year. However, at Goodrich the safety of our students is the top priority and we will continue to follow the guidelines necessary.”
McRae agrees weather will be a big obstacle for a spring football season.
“We’ll have to be very creative in starting football practice in March, to play in April and May,” he said. “But, I understand the mindset of the decision and we as coaches and administrators will support our students.”
Martian rival Blackhawk Head Coach Brad Zube received the news at about 5 p.m. on Friday while on the football field preparing for the home opener on Aug. 27 at Fowlerville.
“We were blindsided by this decision,” said Zube, starting his fifth season as head coach. “Parents started calling and we halted practice and broke the news to the team. We all were disappointed but, emphasized it’s a lesson in perseverance and resilience. We’ll have to wait and see what spring football will look like maybe only six games to play and a different playoff format.”
Keep in mind it’s postponement, added Zube.
“We will take the MHSAA on their word for a spring season,” he said. “It’s a tough blow to the program and we’ll miss football this fall. Right now we are missing normalcy.”
According to the MHSAA 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.
Football was allowed to begin practice, with helmets but no other padding, on Aug. 10.
“No one is willing to take the risk of COVID being passed on because of a high-risk sport,” said Uyl. “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.”
The MHSAA announced July 17 it would proceed this school year with its traditional calendar beginning with Fall sports but with enhanced precautions to help limit the spread of COVID-19. At that time, the MHSAA also stated it would move football, and other Fall sports seasons, to the spring of 2021 if they were deemed unsafe to proceed when originally scheduled.
Volleyball and soccer are considered moderate-risk for virus spread, while cross country, golf, tennis and swimming & diving are considered low-risk.