High school football in the spring?
Any kind of change, it seems, is a possibility in the year of the coronavirus. And at a time when Minnesota high school football players are just now beginning to re-familiarize themselves with the inside of weight rooms and planning non-contact drills outdoors, ideas are being floated that in some states, prep football in the 2020-21 school year may be moved from the fall to the spring.
In Michigan, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has suggested swapping high school fall and spring seasons, delaying the beginning of contact sports like football till the spring while moving up golf, tennis and track to fall. In response, the Michigan High School Athletic Association said the plan will be considered.
A few other states are considering similar options. Now, the idea is getting attention in Minnesota.
“I’ve heard a few rumblings,” said veteran Hills-Beaver Creek high school football coach Rex Metzger on Monday. “I think there’s a lot of logistics to work out if something like that is to happen.”
Metzger, no doubt, joins many other southwest Minnesota coaches when he adds, “I’m still hopeful that we’ll have it in the fall.”
The H-BC Patriots are shaking off a little bit of the summer even now, looking in earnest to a football season that may be just around the corner. Weight room training has begun, with social distancing in mind, and on Monday the team began on-field non-contact drills.
Dave Nelson, Minnesota Football Coaches Association (MFCA) assistant executive director, told the Minneapolis Star Tribune, “I think spring high school football is the last option we should look at. But at least it’s an option.”
Not a very good option, apparently, with many coaches in both the high school and college ranks. The Ivy League is said to be on the verge of moving its fall sports to the spring, including a seven-game conference football schedule to be played from April to May. If the Ivy League follows through, that would make it easier for other conferences to fall in line.
In Minnesota, high school football in the spring would create many new issues, most of them unanswerable for now. For one, coaches and athletes in traditional spring sports could not be expected to like it. If they were asked to switch to the fall, that would be bad enough. By hewing to their spring schedules, they’d be competing to a degree with football and perhaps other otherwise fall activities.
There’s also the issue of weather. Spring weather in Minnesota is colder than in most other states. Ohio and Tennessee, for instance -- other states that have discussed a spring-fall switch -- would not have the weather complications Minnesota would have.
Minnesota spring football may be easier for college teams than for their high school counterparts. Large college teams, like the Minnesota Gophers, have state-of-the-art indoor facilities, and U.S. Bank Stadium could host their spring games. Most high school programs play on outdoor grass fields, and MFCA executive director Ron Stolsi reminded the Star Tribune that the fields of some Minnesota high school fields are underwater in the spring.
High school coaches have expressed concern that spring football unfairly impacts multi-sport athletes.
Despite all the concerns, the COVID-19 pandemic continues to drive creative thinking. Football is, of course, a high-contact sport and if the virus continues to be a major concern, to begin the regular season only nine weeks from now seems, to some, optimistic.
Metzger, like other coaches, pushes forward as if nothing will change for the fall. But at this point, no one knows. It has still not been decided whether school, itself, will open in the fall.
“That’s the hard part,” Metzger said.