The Minnesota State High School League cleared the way Tuesday for several sports to begin play this fall, however the football and volleyball seasons were delayed until spring.
Boys and girls soccer, boys and girls cross country, girls tennis and girls swimming and diving were approved to compete in the fall at an MSHSL Board of Directors meeting.
But motions to begin the football and volleyball seasons Aug. 17 were voted down.
Football will begin at an undetermined date in the spring with a 12-week season, six games and no scrimmages. A postseason plan has yet to be determined. A motion to retain the fall season failed by a 12-6 vote, while the spring option passed 13-5.
“To me, it makes sense,” Duluth East football coach Joe Hietala said by phone from Sioux Falls, South Dakota. “If we can’t play in the fall and we can’t play our normal schedule, I think it makes sense playing football in the spring. Football has the capacity to play in rough weather and get outside before the fields are really ready.
“If our choice is to have no season as compared to having a season in the spring, I will gladly play in the spring.”
A first vote to move volleyball, an indoor sport which is considered more susceptible to the COVID-19 virus, to the winter/spring season was tied 9-9 by the 20-member board (one position is vacant and one member was absent). A later vote to keep volleyball in the fall was voted down, followed by another vote to move the sport from mid-March to mid-May that was approved 11-7.
A later vote to allow fall practices in football and volleyball also passed as did a vote to allow fall practices for those sports that were canceled last spring. Details have yet to be worked out.
The resumption of prep sports will be the first in Minnesota since play was called off in mid-March due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Fall practice in the approved sports begins Aug. 17.
The high school league also voted to move traditional spring sports to a summer schedule, effectively creating a fourth season and not forcing multisport athletes to choose between sports. Those sports, such as baseball, softball, lacrosse and track and field, will run from May until early July, again with shorter seasons.
“All of us coaches have a pretty good relationship with each other,” Hietala said. “If there are more than one sport going on at the same time, we’d have the ability to have a way to make it work for the athlete to play both sports. I’m just happy they are saying that we’re still going to have a season.”
A number of other schedule alterations were proposed and accepted by the board.
The soccer season will be reduced by 20 percent in length, with teams needing to pare their schedule down by 30 percent and play no more than two games per week.
Cross country meets are limited to three teams so virtually all normally scheduled events, such as the Swain Invitational in Duluth, will need to be scrapped this fall. Swim meets and tennis matches will be reduced to duals in the regular season.
Events in those sports will be capped at a maximum of two per week and the seasons shortened.
“Every swim schedule, every cross country schedule is going to get blown up,” Duluth Denfeld activities director Tom Pearson said.
Pearson said the Duluth School District and the Lake Superior Conference will have meetings Monday to sort out details about scheduling, transportation and numerous other consequences of the MSHSL’s decision.
“The next three weeks are going to be busy figuring out everything,” Pearson said. “There are a lot of unanswered questions at this point. My phone is blowing up from coaches and different ADs. To be honest, some of the different ADs are not happy about some of the decisions. You’re never going to make everybody happy.”
Information on state tournaments was not yet available Tuesday afternoon.
Check back for more information on this story as it develops.