Minnesota State High School League poised to meet on restarting football, volleyball

The Minnesota State High School League is poised to schedule a highly unusual meeting as early as Friday to take up whether to reverse itself and start the football and volleyball seasons this fall.

The move surfaced Tuesday at a workshop for Board of Directors members who voted on Aug. 4 to postpone those seasons until March because of COVID-19 concerns.

After hearing discussion that included considerable feedback from schools in support of playing and balancing risks, board President Blaine Novak asked league Executive Director Erich Martens and legal counsel Kevin Beck what it would take to call a meeting for as soon as Friday.

The next board meeting is not scheduled until Oct. 1, which was seen as too long to wait.

During the meeting, conducted via Zoom, board members talked of trying to survey their 500 member schools as soon as Wednesday.

To get the meeting scheduled according to league rules, Novak was told he was required to give three days’ notice.

A league spokesman said after the meeting that Novak will decide Wednesday on the next meeting.

According to 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.

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 were allowed to begin three weeks of optional practices. Other fall sports, including soccer, cross-country, girls’ tennis and girls’ swimming and diving, were allowed to start their competitive seasons as scheduled Aug. 17.

Said Novak, “How has the information we used to make a decision in August changed?”

Board member Gary Revenig, Monticello’s activities director, said, “What’s different is that in August, surrounding states weren’t planning to playing football. They are now.”

In late July, a Minnesota Football Coaches Association survey found almost 70% of coaches favored playing football this fall vs. moving it to next spring. A total of 314 head coaches responded to the survey.

All those advocating for football this fall, said board member Dustin Bosshart, who serves as principal and football coach at St. Clair, need to consider a bigger picture.

“I want football to happen, but bringing it back in the fall creates issues that I don’t think a lot of people are even looking at,” he said.

League associate director Bob Madison, who oversees football, struck a different chord, saying, “We’ve put football on hold while other teams are playing and football coaches and players are saying, ‘Why not us?’ And I believe our student-athletes have the best opportunity in our schools. We offer the most controlled environment.”

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