Steve Brownlee column: U.P. spring sports seasons getting squeezed by wet weather

All of us involved in high school sports – whether it’s athletes, coaches, parents, fans or those of us who cover these events in the media – hoped that once winter let go of its icy grip, we’d have a nice sunny, dry and maybe even warmer-than-average spring.

You know, just to make up for the unusually harsh conditions we’ve dealt with since, oh, I’d say November or December.

But for those of us who reside in the Upper Peninsula and enjoy an occasional snow-free day, we’ve learned that nothing is off-limits when it comes to piling on the crummy weather.

Take this spring, for instance. Yes, technically it has been spring now for six weeks. Yes, six whole weeks have passed since the calendar read March 20.

Heck, we’re already in May.

We waited, and waited, and waited some more for the snow to melt, and when a few 50-degree days built some momentum toward that end … BOOM! Another four-inch, or eight-inch, or 18-inch snowfall socks us in again.

The latest round was on Tuesday for many of us.

We actually had another close call on Thursday. A careful examination of the weather.com website showed that large areas just offshore in Lake Superior weren’t getting the green shading of rain, but the pink that indicates a snow-rain-sleet-and-whatever-else mix.

But a cold rain was enough to postpone nearly every U.P. event. With peninsula finals in track and field, golf and boys tennis scheduled earlier than normal, these postponements will probably turn into cancellations.

I heard a rumor this week about moving some spring sports to next fall just to have a decent season. While it sounds like a nice idea, I thought what a logistical nightmare that might create, especially at smaller schools with limited numbers of students.

But rather than just think about it, I made a few calls to some area athletic directors to see what they had to say.

“That’s a thought that some of us have had,” Negaunee AD Andrew Brunette said. “It was brought up at a meeting last week with the MHSAA when they come up here twice a year to let us know what is going on in the state.”

The MHSAA is the Michigan High School Athletic Association, the organization of public and private schools that governs high school sports in the state.

Marquette AD Jamie Tuma confirmed the representative who came from Lansing was Tom Rashid, an MHSAA associate director.

She also said golfers seemed to be the most interested in a move to the fall, when courses have more open times, not to mention no spring-delayed opening issues.

But she and Brunette mentioned that sports seasons for both the U.P. and Lower Peninsula were set in stone as part of the gender equity lawsuit the MHSAA lost, or at least was forced into a settlement on, a few years ago.

That was the one where volleyball parents wanted that sport moved to the fall to coincide with collegiate and other states’ high school seasons.

It has been a problem for U.P. soccer ever since, because part of the settlement stipulated the boys soccer season here is in the spring and girls in the fall, the opposite of what the Lower Peninsula and surrounding states do.

With so few teams in the U.P., the soccer people pushed to go with the current set-up so they could schedule games outside the U.P. But it’s turned their teams into de facto “club” teams playing out of season and therefore ineligible to participate in MHSAA tournaments.

It’s why the powerhouse Marquette squads don’t go over the Mackinac Bridge and compete for a state title.

There has been interest in trying to amend the court settlement. But apparently that’s a whole lot easier said than done when you’re talking lawyers, courts, judges and the like.

I asked the two ADs about moving the U.P. finals back a week, since they’re earlier than normal and just about every school district has already extended the school year because of extra snow days this winter.

But it’s already May, and there are just four weeks to go until the last of the finals in track and field are held May 31.

Schedules for things like golf courses, volunteers, school personnel and family vacations all have to be changed if the finals suddenly move.

So we’re stuck with a short season this spring.

Let’s just look at it this way: Nobody will be sick of hitting softballs, jumping hurdles, swinging golf clubs or whacking tennis balls by the time we get to the end of the season.