For fall sports, perhaps the most discussed change will concern MHSAA Tournament classification in volleyball. For the first time, volleyball teams are classified into four equal divisions instead of the traditional Class A-B-C-D. Class no longer will be used to organize the postseason for any sport, including girls and boys basketball in the winter. All other sports previously had switched from classes to divisions.
While most fall sports face at least minor rules changes this season, a few of the most noticeable adjustments in fall sports will come in football, volleyball, boys soccer, and girls swimming & diving.
- In an effort to improve football pace of play by reducing re-kicks after a free or scrimmage kick (generally kickoffs or punts, respectively), an option has been added allowing the receiving team to accept a penalty and tack on the awarded yardage to the spot where the kick or punt return ended. This option incentivizes the receiving team to forgo a re-kick and joins three other options after a penalty on the kicking team. The receiving team also may continue to accept a penalty from the previous spot and have the kicking team re-kick; and on kickoffs that travel out of bounds, the receiving team may continue to accept the ball and begin possession 25 yards from where the kickoff occurred or decline the penalty and begin possession where the kick flew out of bounds.
- Additionally, for football, players who fail to properly wear required equipment or are missing required equipment during a down shall be replaced for one down rather than incur a yardage penalty. Previously, a penalty was assessed for delay of game in this scenario. If a player’s proper or legal equipment has become improperly worn through use and prompt repair is possible and does not cause a delay in the game, that repair may be made without the player being replaced for the next down.
- A change in volleyball will allow teams to substitute for an injured/ill player prior to a replay; previously a replay would take place with no changes on the floor after the point was originally contested.
- Also in volleyball, with an eye on risk minimization, teams will be allowed to warm-up between sets only in their playing area and may not hit volleyballs over the net into the opponents’ playing area.
- For soccer – both boys this fall and girls in the spring – teams may continue to play up to two multi-team events every season, but beginning this fall a multi-team event can include two full 80-minute games the same day and still be counted as only one of a team’s 18 regular-season contests. Teams also may continue to play multi-team events with 30-minute halves and no more than 180 minutes total in one day (for example, three games with 30-minute halves) and call it just one contest of the 18.
- Another significant soccer change will switch the home team to wearing the dark uniform and the away team to wearing the white uniform. The change was made to allow home teams to wear their school colors – it does not require teams to purchase new uniforms, but only switches which team wears dark and which wears white.
- Also for soccer, a change has been made to the penalty when a player is whistled for denying the other team an obvious goal-scoring opportunity. If a player, in the penalty area, commits an infraction while attempting to play the ball, and that infraction results in a penalty kick, that offending player will receive a yellow card – previously this would have been a red card. If the player is not attempting to play the ball when an infraction is called in the penalty area that results in a penalty kick, the offending player still will receive a red card along with the opposing team being awarded the penalty kick.
- In swimming & diving regular-season competition, a pair of changes will provide more opportunities for divers. The diving event in dual, double-dual or other multi-team non-championship competition has been limited to six dives, but now may be expanded to an 11-dive competition – giving divers another opportunity to prepare for the 11-dive competitions at the MHSAA Qualification Meets and Finals levels. Also, while diving traditionally has been placed in the middle of the event order of a dual or other regular-season meet, it may now be conducted first, last or simultaneously with the swimming events. (Both require prior mutual consent by competing teams and officials.)
- Also in swimming & diving, visible 16.4-yard (or 15-meter) marks must be made visible on both sides of the pool deck to assist swimmers during competition.