Minnesota high school teams might be on the verge of opening the 2020 fall season after all.
The Minnesota State High School League has scheduled a meeting for Monday to “reconsider placement of fall activities seasons.” Likely, it means an extended discussion on beginning the football and volleyball seasons this fall, which would countermand a decision made Aug. 4 to postpone those activities.
It’s a growing trend, as high school associations and college conferences throughout the nation work to salvage seasons amid the pandemic. The Big 10 Conference, for instance, this week announced it will start its football season Oct. 24 following a vote from the league’s university presidents. There will be no fans at the games, and rigorous, rapid testing of players has helped assuage concerns among Big 10 presidents and leaders. Loss of millions of dollars in revenue certainly must have been considered.
As college leagues come back, we hope the MSHSL takes action Monday to start Minnesota’s high school seasons.
Other states are following this course, including Wisconsin and Michigan. North Dakota and South Dakota chose to forge ahead from the start.
There have been some cases of COVID-19 among high school sports teams in North Dakota, but few event cancellations; in Grand Forks, a small number of athletes have contracted the illness and have been removed from competition, but no cancellations. Efforts made to safeguard players and fans appear to be working. Minnesotans must be enviously watching.
Meanwhile, don’t expect a resumption of football at UND. In an interview with the Herald earlier this week, UND President Andrew Armacost said there are no plans whatsoever for the Fighting Hawks, or their conference, to play games this fall.
“No second thoughts at all,” he said about the decision to postpone the season entirely until spring. “I think the decision was sound in terms of what we know about the spread of the pandemic. … Health and safety is the most important factor. I think the Missouri Valley Football Conference decided this is the right move and we are looking forward to the spring season.”
The Big 10 and major conferences like it can operate without fans because of lucrative television deals. The lower Division I colleges need fans in the seats, and that’s just not possible during the pandemic. So yes, it’s best for UND and the Missouri Valley Conference to wait out the pandemic and start in the spring.
At the high school level, however, it’s being shown that with modifications, seasons can move forward, since high school programs don’t come with the costs or revenue loss associated with college football. If the weather turns bad this fall, Minnesota teams in the region perhaps could utilize indoor facilities, like the Alerus Center in Grand Forks.
A spring football season in Minnesota could be troublesome and unpredictable. Early-season games and practices would be jeopardized by uncooperative weather and football fields will be in terrible condition. A spring season also will impinge track and baseball programs.
The MSHSL should give its approval to start the 2020 season as soon as possible.