Facing repercussions

MHSAA penalties cast wide net: affect girls soccer, other North sports

By Erin Kaled and Katelynn Mulder

When the girls varsity soccer team won districts last spring, they ended an eight-year drought.

But after someone sent an anonymous letter to the Michigan High School Athletic Association claiming the team played more regular season games than allowed, the girls were stripped of their title and trophy.

What really happened is a misunderstanding between schools. When the girls varsity soccer team was playing in what they believed to be scrimmages, the opponents were under the impression that they were playing a full-fledged game.

So after its investigation over the summer, the MHSAA is penalizing the athletic department for the 2016-17 school year.

“We didn’t know we were doing anything wrong, so they said that they were going to take our title away, and that we weren’t going to be allowed to move on to regionals and our next game,” senior Megan Lowers said. “We got the parents together and the teammates, and we decided to take this to court.”

When the case was brought to court, the team got a temporary restraining order, which allowed them to play their regional game against Troy Athens High School.

However, a temporary restraining order wasn’t an “all clear.” It simply meant the team was allowed to play. In the eyes of the MHSAA Executive Committee, the girls soccer teamand the whole athletic department by associationwas at fault.

“In order to consider it a scrimmage, both schools need to count it as a scrimmage,” Athletic Director Brian Shelson said. “Even though we did play in the (district) game, they found us to be wrong. For that reason, they put penalties on us for the 2016-2017 year.”

When North’s administration was called in front of the MHSAA Executive Committee after the investigation, the committee confirmed its initial ruling that the team was in violation of the rules and handed down punishments for the girls soccer team and all MHSAA sports.

This punishments affect all sports teams at North except swimming and field hockey, which don’t compete under MHSAA.

“The school is on probation through July 31, 2017,” MHSAA communications director John Johnson said. “During that time, the school cannot host MHSAA tournaments, the school can not receive reimbursements for any MHSAA tournament that they might otherwise be entitled to due to policy, the varsity girls soccer team is limited to two not four scrimmages, and 16 not 18 games during the 2017 regular seasons, and then the school’s girl(s) soccer program shall not participate in the 2017 soccer tournament.”