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Game back on? MSHSL set to consider fall football, volleyball
HIGH SCHOOL

Game back on? MSHSL set to consider fall football, volleyball

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The Minnesota State High School League’s board of directors will meet at 9 a.m. Monday to consider starting football and volleyball seasons this fall.

Board President Blaine Novak on Wednesday called the special meeting after a nearly four-hour board workshop Tuesday that included considerable sentiment for reconsidering the board’s Aug. 4 decision to postpone both sports until spring because of COVID-19 concerns.

The timing of the special meeting reflects concern that waiting until the next regular board meeting on Oct. 1 to take up the question would be too long to wait to play football this fall.

According to workshop meeting discussions, the earliest potential dates for fall football games would be Oct. 2, with first practices Sept. 21. Volleyball matches could start Oct. 22, with first practices Oct. 12.

During the workshop, board members talked of surveying schools as soon as Wednesday to get more feedback.

The push to rethink delays in sports seasons reflects a nationwide outcry, most notably aimed at college football, with some conferences moving forward with games while others, including the Big Ten, delaying their seasons. At the high school level, Michigan recently reversed its plan to play next spring and now intends to play this fall.

On Monday, Minnesota high school football and volleyball teams began three weeks of optional practices, the result of having their seasons delayed until March. Other fall sports, including soccer, cross-country, girls’ tennis and girls’ swimming and diving were allowed to start their competitive seasons as scheduled on Aug. 17.

In late July, a Minnesota Football Coaches Association survey found almost 70% of coaches favored playing football as scheduled this fall vs. moving it to next spring. In addition, more than 80% believed that they and their school administrations were prepared to implement safety measures as recommended by the Minnesota Department of Health throughout the season. A total of 314 head coaches responded to the survey.

But when the league’s board met on Aug. 4, it decided to postpone football and volleyball and create a new season, from March until May, to play both of them. Board members said they were acting on the best information they had available and stressed that the fluid nature of the pandemic.

Football is a major revenue source for most school districts and the high school league, which counts it as its second-biggest revenue generator after the boys’ hockey tournament. It’s also among the “higher risk” sports as identified in National Federation of State High School Associations guidelines.

The workshop was billed as a discussion-only meeting, with no decisions to be rendered. The agenda included fall sports postseason plans, which remain unsettled with seasons set to end within a month; the calendar for winter and spring sports, and a significant increase in membership fees for schools.

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