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Mich. Approves Age Waiver for High School Student-Athletes

An overwhelming majority of member schools in the Michigan High School Athletic Association voted to change the organization's constitution and allow their student-athlete age limit to be waived under extremely limited circumstances, the MHSAA announced today.

Before passage of this amendment, the MHSAA's age limit was the only rule not subject to waiver under the organization's constitution.

The MHSAA sent a survey to member schools this month in response to the national attention gained by Eric Dompierre, a junior at Ishpeming (Mich.) High School who has Down syndrome. Dompierre, who turned 19 in January, wouldn't have been eligible to continue playing football and basketball on his school teams during his senior year under the former rule.

A total of 701 of the MHSAA's 1,535 schools responded to the survey, with 94 percent in favor of the change. The organization only requires a two-thirds majority to make a change to its constitution.

"The affirmative results reflect two things: first, that the proposal was well-conceived; and second, that council members themselves turned many of their constituents' votes from no to yes," said John E. Roberts, executive director of the MHSAA, in a statement. "This proposal would not have passed without the council's proactive efforts."

Don't expect to suddenly see a flood of age waivers in Michigan, however. The waivers can only be awarded if: a student-athlete has been held back a grade before high school strictly because of a medically documented disability and the student-athlete has the disability at the time of the waiver request. If both conditions apply, student-athletes can be granted a one-year extension on the maximum age limit, according to the new rule.

The amendment also contains a provision that would apply to 7th and 8th grade athletes.

"Our challenge now is to demonstrate to the negative voters and to those many schools which didn't cast a vote at all that this is a narrow gate that preserves the integrity of the program as effectively as the previous rule that was so well understood and respected," Roberts said.

The website set up to support Dompierre didn't yet appear to be updated at the time of writing this post, but a Facebook page dedicated to Dompierre posted the MHSAA's release accompanied by the caption, "Great news!"

Twenty-three other state athletic associations allow waivers to their age-limit rule, according to the Dompierre family. With this change, Michigan becomes the 24th.

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