EAST LANSING – Many high school football and soccer teams share the same field and play under the same lights.
It might come as a surprise which sport generates more ejections and sportsmanship concerns.
According to the Michigan High School Athletic Association Officials Report Summary for the 2014-15 school year, boys varsity soccer led all sports in player ejections with 223 and officials’ concerns with 280. Varsity football was second in both player ejections (136) and concerns (153) while boys varsity ice hockey was third in both ejections (127) and concerns (143).
“The two sports where I think sportsmanship is an ongoing battle is in boys soccer as well as ice hockey,” MHSAA assistant director Mark Uyl said. “Those are the only two sports, incidentally, that when you get to our postseason tournament, we don’t start a contest in either of those sports until we verify that there’s a school administrator present from each school.
“We have made a lot of progress in ice hockey and part of it was we’ve made the penalties a lot more tough to where you get ejected from a hockey game, you’re out for the next two.”
The MHSAA compiles an Officials Report Summary on an annual basis, but those statistics are not available on the association’s web site.
“Those are used in variety of ways,” MHSAA communications director John Johnson said, “but they’re used more behind the scenes to gather data and share with schools to make everybody better.”
The category for an official’s concern is wide ranging and can include anything from an ejection to uniform or equipment violations to facility problems. Boys varsity baseball led the way in coach ejections with 30, boys varsity soccer was second with 24 and boys varsity basketball was third with 23.
Johnson said officials are required to file a report any time there’s an ejection or suspected concussion and that schools are always copied on the information, which is also used in rules meetings. Officials also report praise for programs and girls varsity basketball led the way with 40 instances while boys varsity soccer was sixth with 14.
“We’re seeing some progress,” Uyl said. “The thing that hurts soccer, solely when you’re looking at it from the ejection report aspect, is if a kid gets two yellow cards that equals a red card, which means ejection.
“In some of our sports, the rules of the sport or the penalty progression, I think, inflate those numbers a little bit.”
The MHSAA records the number of reports of praise or concern per school each year. Saginaw Heritage, which has a MHSAA-listed enrollment of 1,564, had the most reports of concern in 2014-15 with 16.
“In their defense, that is a large school that has every athletic program in every sport that we sponsor,” Uyl said. “Is that a little high? Certainly. We’ve been in touch with the school certainly to make them aware of that and they’re working on some local programs that will hopefully address that and reduce that number for next year.
“One of our strongest athletic directors (James Noble) is at Heritage – good school, good program, lots of success. They just kind of had one of those very abnormal years for them.”
Every year the MHSAA sends a congratulatory letter to each member school that receives no reports of concern.
“We’re pleased to be able to honor about one-third of our schools each year with what we call the no-news-is-good-news letter,” Uyl said. “Some years it will be at 27 or 28 percent, other years it will be in the mid-30s.”