Notre Dame Prep to leave CHSL, cites commitment to student-athlete safety

School cites student-athlete safety, says league ruling that it must play bigger CHSL teams in football was safety issue; all sports remain available to all students.


January 12, 2016 — At a January 12, 2016, meeting of Executive Athletic Board members of Detroit’s Catholic High School League, the board voted to deny Pontiac Notre Dame Preparatory School’s appeal to allow Notre Dame to withdraw from the Catholic League “in football only” for one year while league alignments and football matches—and potential mismatches—are reviewed by a special committee. 

The appeal was seen as an attempt to find a compromise to the complete withdrawal of all Notre Dame sports teams from the league.

According to Notre Dame officials, the school was appealing an earlier ruling by the league to compel Notre Dame, a member of the league’s AA Division, to play at least one football game per season against a member of CHSL’s Central Division (comprised of schools with much larger male student populations) — or leave the league entirely.

The net result of the decision today by the league’s executive board means that Notre Dame must effectively withdraw from all CHSL athletic participation beginning with the fall 2016 seasons. Notre Dame Prep, which has both male and female student-athletes, will operate as an independent school with respect to athletic participation and be eligible for all Michigan High School Athletic Association activities and contests.

It was Notre Dame’s contention that the mismatches resulting from crossover football games in terms of player and roster sizes would be potentially dangerous to the well-being of Notre Dame student-athletes.

Notre Dame adminstrators said the school's CYO league affiliation is not affected by this action. 

'It’s about keeping faith with our commitment to students and parents on athlete safety'

In an earlier letter to the EAB, the Catholic League’s main governing body, Notre Dame administrators said that if their compromise appeal was not seen favorably, then “we must, with great regret, inform the Catholic League that Notre Dame Preparatory School will decline membership in the Catholic League in all sports for the 2016-2017 school year, remaining open to the possibility that we could rejoin the Catholic League in the future by our request or your invitation when we feel that our safety concerns have been addressed.”

Rev. Leon M. Olszamowski, s.m., Notre Dame’s president, said the school does not make such a decision lightly or in a vacuum. 

“It’s not about wins and losses, but it’s about keeping faith with our commitment to students and parents on athlete safety,” he said. “We have to remember that these young athletes are still children, still growing and still developing both physically and mentally. 

“Our philosophical and practical approaches to football mismatches — and the possibility of head injuries in particular — has motivated our internal activities and public face on this issue. We simply have not agreed with the Catholic League’s current approach with regard to football crossovers, which we feel simply exacerbates a real safety problem.”

Olszamowski added that the school has been trying to resolve the issue with the league for at least three years. He also said the move to separate from the league is entirely consistent with Notre Dame’s longstanding approach to avoiding catastrophic and long-term sports injuries in contact sports. “Almost daily, we see the handwriting on the wall with regard to football head injuries in particular, which is rapidly ‘trickling down’ to high school football,” he said. “We have simply decided to approach this matter very proactively just as we feel the MHSAA and other sports organizations have already done so.”

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About Notre Dame Preparatory School and Marist Academy

Notre Dame Preparatory School and Marist Academy is a private, Catholic, independent, coeducational day school located in Oakland County. The school's upper division enrolls students in grades nine through twelve and has been named one of the nation's best 50 Catholic high schools (Acton Institute) four times since 2005. Notre Dame's middle and lower divisions enroll students in jr. kindergarten through grade eight. All three divisions are International Baccalaureate "World Schools." The Marist Fathers and Brothers sponsor NDPMA's Catholic identity and manages its educational program. Notre Dame is accredited by the Independent Schools Association of the Central States and the North Central Association Commission on Accreditation and School Improvement. For more on Notre Dame Preparatory School and Marist Academy, visit the school's home page at