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AD Resigns Over Resumption of Fall High School Sports

Paul Steinbach

A high school athletic director in northeast Michigan has resigned over the fact his school will resume fall sports.

As reported by mlive.com, Matt Unke announced his resignation Wednesday as athletic director at Tawas Area High School after his recommendation for the school to cancel fall sports was denied.

“With the Board of Education deciding to move forward with fall sports I can not, in good conscience, be the person who is responsible for facilitating large gatherings,” Unke wrote in a resignation letter emailed to Tawas staff and media outlets. "I have come to this decision as no scientific data has been presented to show we should be moving forward with these types of events.

"To the contrary, the governor discussed on Wednesday at a press conference how the parts of the state that have been opened up (Phase 5 for Regions 6 and 8) show increases in cases. The very next day she allowed all parts of the state to move forward.

"This was unexpected as every action, up to this point, had placed restrictions on our ability to play and even went as far as postponing the sport of football till the spring. I ask, ‘What changed overnight?’

“Absolutely nothing that is based on scientific data.”

When Michigan governor Gretchen Whitmer relaxed coronavirus safety standards regarding organized sports last Thursday, the Michigan High School Athletic Association gave the go-ahead for all fall sports — including football — to proceed. Unke, who held his part-time position for three years, made the recommendation to cancel fall sports — with the exception of cross country — at Tawas for 2020.

School superintendent John Klinger said he spent Tuesday gathering input from numerous sources and discussing the matter with the district’s attorneys before deciding the district should indeed offer sports programs this fall. “After meeting with the district’s legal counsel and looking over the MHSAA guidelines, we felt we needed to provide programming and opportunities for our students,” said Klinger, himself a former athlete as a 1994 Tawas graduate.

Klinger describes Unke is a "data-driven person" and holds no hard feelings toward his former colleague, adding, “Matt has personal beliefs that make him uncomfortable going forward in this situation and I respect and understand that.”

Klinger said the district is currently building a plan for the administrative team to share the athletic director’s responsibilities until a new hire is made.

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