After a push by parents and students statewide and a course reversal by the NCAA’s Big Ten Conference, the Minnesota State High School League changed its stance on the volleyball and football season with a special meeting of the Board of Directors on Monday, Sept. 21, and cleared a late, shortened fall season for the two sports. Both will start with practices next Monday, Sept. 28. Competition will begin after that, with volleyball starting games on Oct. 8 and football on Oct. 9 and 10.
After deciding to postpone the two activities to a special spring season back in August, the MSHSL proceeded to conduct the other fall sports – including boys’ and girls’ soccer, cross-country and others – as normal. Thus far, no COVID-19 related illnesses have struck Minnesota programs, despite some school districts statewide changing their learning models due to the pandemic.
That led the MSHSL to conduct a special board meeting Monday, with brief presentations from the #LetThemPlay parent and athlete group organized by students and parents, as well as information from a medical liaison that has worked with the MSHSL throughout the summer.
The result? After nearly two hours, volleyball was approved for a fall season by a 14-4 vote, while much less discussion led to a new football season this fall, approved 15-3.
“Here we go,” one local coach said. “We’re relieved. Workouts were starting and we weren’t seeing any issues, so it’ll be great to let the kids play.”
There will be stipulations. According to the state, no more than 250 fans can attend a football game (not including coaches, cheerleaders, trainers, etc.), so stadiums will be less populated. For volleyball, crowds will not be allowed and tournaments will go by the wayside.
The football season will consist of just six games, starting the second Friday in October. Postseason will last two weeks, and the season will wrap by Nov. 28, 2020, as it would have if the state would have conducted a “normal” 2020 season. That will allow student athletes to transition to their winter sports (wrestling, basketball, etc.) if they are multi-sport athletes.
Winter sports have not been discussed by the league board at this time. A full examination of the winter season, including hockey, is set for Oct. 1.
“SD 728 has communicated to the MSHSL that we would like our student-athletes to be able to compete in both volleyball and football this fall, as long as it is determined safe to do so,” said ISD 728 Superintendent Dan Bittman in a statement last week. “We heard from many of our football and volleyball families about their desire to play, and appreciate being able to collaborate with them and the MSHSL to do so.”