Eric Dompierre -left. Photo from the Detroit Free Press.
GAYLORD, Mich. (WZZM) The Representative Council of the Michigan High School Athletic Association today threw support behind an effort to raise age limits in special circumstances.
It stems from the case of an Upper Peninsula boy with Down syndrome who would be prevented from playing football and basketball next school year without a rule change. Current rules forbid any student who turns 19 prior to September 1 from participating in high school sports that year.
Eric Dompierre is already 19. His parents started him in school late to allow him to develop more. He is 130 pounds and is 5' 1". His father testified last week about the need for a waiver for children with special needs.
The MHSAA is now sending the proposal on to schools for a vote. Results should be known in two weeks. Two-thirds support from the schools is needed to make a change in the group's constitution.
Last week, legislative leaders from both parties urged the MHSAA to allow age waivers in special situations. The MHSAA is a private entity and does not come under state control, even though it controls school athletics.
Read the complete statement from the MHSAA below:
The Representative Council of the Michigan High School Athletic Association, at its Spring meeting which concluded here today, approved a proposal for a vote by member schools which would change the organization's Constitution to allow for a waiver of its maximum age limitation under narrowly defined circumstances.
Ballots will be mailed this week. Schools have two weeks to return the ballots, which must be signed by the school principal and superintendent. The MHSAA will post the wording of the proposal on its website no later than May 14.
The Representative Council is the 19-member legislative body of the MHSAA. All but five members are elected by member schools. Four members are appointed by the Council to facilitate representation of females and minorities; and the 19th position is occupied by the Superintendent of Public Instruction or designee. The Council meets three times annually - in early December, late March, and early May - to act on proposals for its eligibility rules, sports in which the Association sponsors post-season tournaments, and operational matters.
Currently under MHSAA rules, a student who turns 19 prior to Sept. 1 of a school year is not eligible for interscholastic athletics. Michigan is one of approximately 40 states which use this maximum or have a younger maximum age limit. The MHSAA's Constitution, which can only be changed by a two-thirds vote of member schools, does not allow the maximum age rule to be waived. Michigan is in the majority of states which do not allow waiver of the rule.
"We recognize that member schools have preferred a bright line for the maximum age rule," said MHSAA Executive Director John E. "Jack" Roberts. "We have prepared for a vote of the membership what we believe is the best alternative - better for Michigan than any proposal we have reviewed from other sources.
"The Representative Council does not advance proposals it does not want the membership to support, and an affirmative vote by schools is being specifically requested on this proposal."
Based on member school input, the Council previously rejected proposals from the same member school district for a constitutional vote in 2010 and 2011. The school district did not exercise its option to launch its own petition drive of member schools; nor did it avail itself of an athletic eligibility advancement provision in the MHSAA Handbook which allows for over aged students to have four years of high school participation with their age group.
The MHSAA is a private, not-for-profit corporation of voluntary membership by nearly 1,600 public and private senior high schools and junior high/middle schools which exists to develop common rules for athletic eligibility and competition. No government funds or tax dollars support the MHSAA, which was the first such association nationally to not accept membership dues or tournament entry fees from schools. Member schools which enforce these rules are permitted to participate in MHSAA tournaments, which attract approximately 1.6 million spectators each year.