Citing player safety concerns, a Michigan high school football team has cancelled its season with three regular-season games left.
Caro High School has been devastated by injuries. According to its head coach, four or five players have suffered season-ending injuries, and several more have sustained concussions. At the same time, four players quit the team in the past two weeks, depleting its pool of healthy bodies -- particularly among the juniors and seniors.
That has forced the program to promote sophomores onto the varsity squad. But Superintendent Mike Joslyn said that action only increased the risk for additional injuries. The sophomores were not physically or emotionally ready to take on other varsity players. Eventually, the head coach's concerns brought him to Joslyn, and the school decided that the season should be cancelled.
The action is particularly relevant given the increased media attention focused on player safety in football. While some high schools have cancelled their varsity seasons due to a lack of available players, Caro has chosen to end the season when they could have pressed on. But that would have meant inserting overmatched players into dangerous circumstances.
Although some players were disappointed to see the season end, Caro's football team actually supported the move. In a team vote earlier in the week, two-thirds called for ending the season.
Joslyn told The New York Times that the decision was difficult, but that the school is "an educational institution, and with our student, safety comes first."
"These kids have long lives ahead of them, and we need to keep the brains in their heads intact," he added.
The move has been met with praise nationally. Steve Almond, author of Against Football and an advocate for dramatic football reform, chimed in:
A HS football team in MI cancels season to protect students from injuries. Miracle or common sense? http://t.co/YFsOx84r5y
— Steve Almond (@stevealmondjoy) October 13, 2014
Despite the rash of injuries, Caro High School does intend to play a full schedule next season. Joslyn personally feels that the issue of bodily harm in football has been sensationalized to some extent, but he does think some response is warranted, whether it means delaying the introduction of conduct among youths or taking other measures to improve player safety.