Prep Bowl to be tweaked slightly for 2019; league adjusts to no sports on Sundays policy
DETROIT — The Catholic High School League enters its 93rd year on an optimistic note.
“The future looks bright. We are expecting a good year,” says CHSL director Vic Michaels, who makes his assessment drawing upon a quarter-century of involvement in league operations, starting in 1995 as associate director and, since 2003, as director.
The league, which traces its roots back to 1926 and is one of the largest of its kind in the United States, “is 27 schools strong,” Michaels said. “We measure our success on the quality of faith-based athletic programs they provide.”
Twenty-two schools are Catholic: six all-boys schools, five all-girls, and 11 coed. Five private non-Catholic schools are coed.
Their combined projected enrollment for 2019-2020 academic year is 10,921, just a half-percent slip from three years ago.
Applying the 65 percent figure the Michigan High School Athletic Association uses to estimate the number of participants (multiple-sport athletes are counted more than once) in sports statewide, about 7,000 students participate in one or more of the 30 sports (14 for boys, 16 for girls) the CHSL sanctions.
Here are some of the highlights of the coming season:
A 'weeklong' Prep Bowl
Michaels said the annual “Prep Bowl,” traditionally for 46 years a one-day event to decide CHSL football champions, will become a “weeklong” event this fall.
The MHSAA counts backward from Thanksgiving Day to determine the start of its football season, this year a week later. The CHSL could not change its Oct. 19 reservation of Ford Field accordingly because the arena had been booked for a Luke Bryan concert.
“So,” Michaels said, “We’ll have a Prep Bowl Week.”
Instead of the usual championship contests at Ford Field, this year will be a little different.
On Saturday, Oct. 19, the 2019 Prep Bowl XLVII will have all the usual day-long trappings — CYO football in the morning and three regular season football games in the afternoon and evening: Dearborn Divine Child vs. Detroit U-D Jesuit, Warren De La Salle vs. Orchard Lake St. Mary’s Prep, and Allen Park Cabrini vs. Riverview Gabriel Richard.
In between games, awards will be distributed to JV champs, scholastic All Catholic honorees, educator awards, and 25- and 50-year reunion teams.
The CHSL football A-B, C-D and intersectional championships will be staged the following week, on Saturday, Oct. 26, at Eastern Michigan University.
No sports on Sunday
“Everybody’s been talking about no sports on Sundays,” Michaels said. “But from our point of view, it’s not a problem.”
In a pastoral note May 15, Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron called upon the faithful and pastors of the Church in Detroit to “keep Sunday holy” by “setting aside this day as much as possible for God-centered pursuits.”
It was one of the central tenets of the archbishop’s landmark 2017 pastoral letter, Unleash the Gospel.
“One of the clearest calls from Synod 16 was for our Church to reclaim Sunday as a day set apart for the Lord, for family and for works of mercy,” Archbishop Vigneron wrote.
“The response has been tremendous,” Michaels said, about not playing on Sundays.
The one high school event most affected was the girls and boys basketball championships, usually played on Sundays at the University of Detroit Mercy. They’ll now be played on Saturday.
“We noticed the crowds are bigger,” Michaels said of this year's contest, held on a Saturday for the first time in decades. “The coaches liked it. We’ve heard nothing but praise.”
The league unveiled a revamped website in May that offers a more comprehensive look at the conference with scores, standings, schedules and featured articles about teams and athletes around the league.
The new mobile-friendly website comes with a new CHSL logo, featuring a cross among the four-letter logo and the year 1926, when the league was established. It complements the Catholic League’s longstanding seal, which incorporates the Archdiocese of Detroit's coat of arms.