News Story

Proposed State Law Would End Blowout High School Football Games Early

Bill’s sponsor says mercy rule needed to prevent injuries during last minute of games

A Democratic state representative wants to send a sportsmanship message to high school athletes and has authored a bill that would end some football games early.

State Rep. Robert Kosowski, D-Westland, introduced House Bill 5605 last week, which would prohibit a public school from participating in an interscholastic football game unless the Michigan High School Athletic Association creates a rule to end games if one team has a lead of 17 points or more with a minute or less remaining.

Rep. Kosowski

Rep. Kosowski said the law would allow the game to be ended or the team with the ball to snap it without the opposing team encroaching after the snap. He said the bill was inspired by a 2011 high school playoff game that led to assault charges against four players for hitting and injuring a quarterback in the final moments of a game when he took a knee.

Rep. Kosowski said the parents of P.J. Guse asked if he could do something about that incident. Guse was the quarterback who took a knee as his Westland Lutheran High School team was beating Star International Academy 47-6. According to news reports, the referees had warned the players on Star International Academy that Guse was going to take a knee to run out the clock. But the four players still broke the line and hit Guse, which resulted in a concussion. The four players were charged with assault and battery. A judge dismissed the case, but called the actions by the four players deplorable.

Rep. Kosowski, who played college football at Adrian College, said he didn't think government should take a role in how high school football games should be played, but felt compelled to do something when approached by the parents of the injured player.

"This is more for awareness," Rep. Kosowski said. "It starts the conversation."

He said he knew the Michigan High School Athletic Association wouldn't like his bill.

"I don't want to write rules for them," Rep. Kosowski said. "I am trying to make them aware that this is an issue that needs to be looked at." He said he wasn't aware of any other incidents in the last minute of blowout games.

Ann Arbor had an incident in 2012 that led to a post-game brawl and a coach being fired after unsportsmanlike conduct and allegations of one team trying to run up the score in the final minute of the game.

The Michigan High School Athletic Association has rules in place that call for a "running clock" during a football game when a lead is 35 points or more in the second half. When a running clock is in play, time is not stopped for plays that go out of bounds, first downs or other instances that normally require the clock to be stopped temporarily.

"We already have provisions in the rules for a number of sports, which either result in a running clock or the termination of play when a certain point margin differential has been reached, and they have served us well," said John Johnson, spokesman for the MHSAA. "I'm sure we'll have some follow up on this recently introduced bill."

The bill has been referred to the House Education Committee.