Gov. Tim Walz said Monday a decision about the remainder of the 2019-20 school year could come later this week. But it might not be welcome news for spring sports athletes, coaches and fans.
Schools have been closed since March 25 and will remain closed until at least May 4 under Walz’s current stay-at-home order in response to the COVID-19 outbreak. For several weeks, schools across Minnesota have implemented distance learning. Walz has said school closures could extend beyond May 4, perhaps until the end of the academic year. The Minnesota State High School League suspended its sponsored activities in mid-March and has tied the resumption of sports and activities to the reopening of school buildings.
On Monday, there was no change in the message. Walz, a former high school teacher and coach, said he sympathized with those who want to get high school athletes back to their sports, but “I don’t want to set up any false expectations.”
“I come back to the idea that I think the things we’ve missed the most are going to be some of the hardest things to get started again, and that’s difficult for me,” Walz added. “So at this point in time I’m not super-optimistic about it.”
Approximately 30 states already have canceled spring high school sports, with Texas, Florida, Ohio and Wisconsin among the most recent to shut down athletics. Iowa and South Dakota are among the states that have canceled spring sports. North Dakota has not.
Minnesota coaches were hopeful they could still salvage a season if it started in early May, but that now appears doubtful. The spring sports postseason currently is scheduled to start May 11 with boys tennis playoffs. The final spring state tournaments – baseball and lacrosse – would be in mid-June.
If the MSHSL goes ahead with spring sports, it would have to find new sites for the state tennis tournament and some state baseball games that were to take place at the University of Minnesota. The university has closed its facilities to “non-curricular use” through June.
Minnesota spring state tournaments have never been shortened or canceled for reasons other than bad weather. In March, the COVID-19 outbreak forced the state girls basketball tournament to be canceled in the middle of the event. The adapted floor hockey and boys basketball tournaments also were called off. The boys basketball tournament had been played every year since 1913.
Elsewhere on the COVID-19 front
Other local sports organizations are making plans to return in the spring and summer as they hope for the go-ahead from the state. A sampling:
• The Riptide Swim Team, home club of world record holder Regan Smith, hopes to reopen its Apple Valley facility May 4, although that decision ultimately is up to the state.
May 4 “is still a ‘hoped for’ date and not yet a firm commitment,” according to a statement on the Riptide website. “Riptide management is working on our reopening plan so that we can be ready to launch immediately following the lifting of restrictions.”
USA Swimming has canceled all competitions through May 31, but the Riptide club said it would reopen for practice May 4 if allowed to do so.
• The Mizuno Northern Lights Qualifier, a club volleyball tournament that last year drew approximately 500 teams, has been postponed twice. The new date is June 5-7 at Minneapolis Convention Center. It is scheduled to run concurrently with the Stars and Stripes Classic, a joint venture between Northern Lights and the Milwaukee Sting Volleyball Club.
• The Minnesota Golf Association on Tuesday announced all competitions scheduled through May 31 will be canceled or postponed. Several already have been rescheduled for late summer and early fall. The changes so far do not affect the state men’s and women’s amateur championships, which remain scheduled for July.
The Tapemark Minnesota PGA Pro-Am, which had been scheduled June 12-14 at Southview Country Club in West St. Paul, is postponed. New dates weren’t announced, although a statement by the Minnesota PGA raised the possibility of the tournament being held in the fall.