In a special meeting held on Monday, Sept. 21, the MSHSL Board of Directors reversed its previous decision to move the traditional fall sports of football and volleyball to a spring schedule. The board voted to return football to a six-game fall schedule that will allow a first game to be played on Friday, Oct. 9, while the volleyball season will allow teams to hold their first match on Thursday, Oct. 8.
On Aug. 4 the MSHSL moved volleyball and football to the spring, while the rest of the fall sports were significantly modified in the areas of competition. The schedules for football and volleyball seasons were originally to run from mid-March to mid-May, followed by a summer season from May through early July that would have included the traditional “spring” sports of lacrosse, track and field, golf, softball and baseball.
According to the National Federation of State High School Associations, Minnesota was one of 19 states that decided to not play football in the fall. Illinois is the only nearby state that is not competing in the fall, although Iowa, Wisconsin and Michigan modified their football season to some degree.
But a large majority of Minnesota high schools wanted that August decision to be reversed. A MSHSL survey of 394 schools around the state showed that 80% would like football to return to the fall, while 76% would like volleyball to return to the fall.
That feeling contradicts the medical guidance offered by Dr. William Roberts, a physician who is a professor in the Department of Family Medicine and Community Health at the University of Minnesota. When asked about mitigating factors that would make volleyball and football safer now than they were considered in the fall, Roberts sounded a warning.
“Masking might be helpful, but I don’t see it as a tenable solution for athletes who are competing,” Dr. Roberts said. “Being outdoors is a huge advantage, especially if it’s windy and the air is circulating. … I think limiting after-a-score celebrations might be helpful.
“But I’m just not sure how we will be able to safely put people who are breathing hard face-to-face, as we have in football. And volleyball players are in pretty close proximity at the net, so I don’t know how that will be accomplished, either.”
That did not stop the MSHSL board from deciding to switch the volleyball season after it was presented with two “season” options from the volleyball committee. The first was for a fall season that would allow two weeks of preseason practice to begin on Monday, Sept. 28, followed by an 11-week season that allows 14 dual competitions, with the first day of competition allowed on Oct. 8.
The second was for a “spring” season that would allow one week of preseason practice starting on Feb. 15, followed by an 11-week season that allows 14 dual competitions and would end on April 19.
After more than 30 minutes of discussion, the motion to return volleyball to the fall passed 14-4
The board then addressed the football season, and while the discussion lasted more than an hour, most of that time was spent trying to determine how a potential postseason could be wedged into a season that is expected to end on Nov. 28.
The Board voted 15-3 in favor of a proposal in which practices will start on Monday, Sept. 28, with the first games played on Friday, Oct. 9. The proposal is for a six-game regular season with a two-week postseason in a format to be determined.
The MSHSL is expected to consider the status of sports that compete in the winter sports season at its meeting on Thursday, Oct. 1. No mention was made on the status of the “spring” sports whose seasons were moved to a May-to-July schedule.
Section tourneys for fall sports
The MSHSL Board of Directors opened the door for section tournaments for the fall sports of boys and girls cross-country, boys and girls soccer, girls swimming and girls tennis.
The boys and girls soccer tournaments will look similar to years past, with a two-week postseason. If there are more than eight teams in a section, the “play-in” games would take place starting Oct. 12-13, with quarterfinals on Oct. 14-17. The semifinals and finals would be played the following week.
While the girls tennis section tournament will be very similar to seasons past, the MSHSL decided to not offer an individual state tournament. The team tournament would be played on different days, with the higher-seeded team serving as the home team.
The girls swimming and diving section tournament will be held over two days starting Oct. 19, with a maximum of four teams competing together at a particular site. Since most sections have more than four teams, the times from different sites would be collected and compared to determine winners.
Teams would be limited to four entries per event, with only three coaches, no managers and only competitors allowed on the pool deck.
Cross-country also will use a format where a maximum of four teams will compete against one another at a particular site on Oct. 12. To allow four teams to compete together, teams would be limited to six competitors, which is down one from the traditional seven competitors.
Boys and girls cross-country teams would be allowed to compete on the same course on the same day, but not at the same time.
The board also approved fall training for CI and PI adapted soccer teams with no games. Teams will have eight practices between Sept. 21 and Oct. 23.