Football in the fall? Volleyball in the fall?
According to reports, the Minnesota State High School League has schedule a meeting for Monday to discuss returning the 2020 football and volleyball seasons to the fall.
With several surrounding states playing the sports during their traditional fall seasons, and other states like Michigan and Colorado either switching from spring back to fall or seriously discussing it, Minnesota appears sensitive to feedback from its schools in support of playing now.
Well before the 2020 school year began, Minnesota announced that there will be no football and volleyball events in the autumn. However, a survey of football coaches indicated that nearly 70 percent still wanted football in the fall.
Earlier this week, a motion was filed in Hennepin County District Court, on behalf of three central Minnesota high school athletes, accusing the MSHSL of violating its own bylaws when it moved the two sports out of season.
On Monday of this week, Worthington High School head coach Gene Lais said he was skeptical regarding rumors that the league was about to consider making a change. On Wednesday, however, he was not quite so skeptical.
He said he’s in favor of football and volleyball in the fall provided the proper safeguards were maintained, though he was leery of how it all might work.
“I’d just like to see all sports participate and have a season,” he said. “The unfortunate thing, we’ve missed out on some great weather.”
According to reports, the league believes the earliest starting date for actual fall football games would be Oct. 2. Volleyball matches could begin on Oct. 22.
Support for fall football and volleyball appears to be growing. More than 100 people arrived last Saturday for a protest outside the governor’s St. Paul residence, organized by a Facebook group called Let Them Play MN. According to the Star Tribune, organizer Dawn Gillman said a petition contains more than 17,000 signatures.
Nationwide, support for fall football is strong, especially at the collegiate level. Some conferences are playing fall games, others aren’t, and the Big Ten -- which postponed football earlier, recently announced that the sport will return on the weekend of Oct. 24.
The Minnesota State High School League has received, and will continue to receive, numbers from the Minnesota Department of Health on summer coronavirus outbreaks regionally. A large outbreak occurred among 52 AAU basketball players during a mid-July tournament in Iowa while soccer had 98 cases. There was no information available on the severity of the cases.
“It comes down to risks and how much risk you’re willing to take on as an organization,” said MDH assistant commissioner Daniel Huff, as quoted by the Star Tribune.
Closer to home, Lais probably speaks for a number of his coaching colleagues and the citizenry at large when he said Wednesday, “Strange times.”
Talking to his players day to day, he mused, he sometimes feels like a fabricator of stories. One day he might say one thing, then discover the next day that what he thought was true is no longer necessarily true. But that’s how the ground shifts in the fall of COVID-19.
On Monday, the Trojan football team began its fall practice season, but it was with the understanding that there would be no actual games until the spring. If games are to be returned to fall, the Trojans -- and all other Minnesota high school teams -- will need to significantly upgrade the seriousness of their practices.
Lais said that he hopes, if football does return, there would be enough time to play a six-game regular season schedule.
The playoff season -- if it happens -- might need to be revised. Traditionally, a hefty majority of Minnesota high school football teams qualify for postseason play. If the same number of teams qualify this year, more weekends would be required to schedule games.
One certainty is this: If the MSHSL wants to return to fall football, time is now a major factor.