Eighteen votes cast, six yay responses, Minnesota high school football in the fall of 2020 was postponed by the Minnesota State High School League Board of Directors Aug. 4.
A proposed plan to move both football and volleyball to a new third season, possible between March and May.
Exactly six weeks later, Sept. 15, that decision was revisited. And on Monday, Sept. 21 in a 9 a.m. meeting the Board of Directors will either affirm that decision or reverse it.
A vote to return to the fall would mean a football practice start date of later that afternoon, games played as soon as Oct. 2. For volleyball, practices could start Oct. 12 with matches beginning Oct. 22.
"I see valid reasons for both. I’d like to see kids play this fall in their traditional season. I would hate to see spring sports displaced again. I do believe frozen fields is a valid reason to try and play football this fall. The sudden change of moving volleyball and football back to the fall is difficult on our coaches and families," Prior Lake Athletic Director Russ Reetz, who represents Region 3AA/4AA on the Board of Directors, said.
"Coaches have made other plans since the Aug. 4 decision. They are now scrambling to change daycare schedules, work schedules and planned vacations. We have athletes who have gone out for a different fall sport. Do they quit their teams at this point in the season? Families have made plans to go on college trips or hunting trips that may not happen now due to conflicts with fall practice," he added.
Discussed at length in a planned two-hour workshop Sept. 15 that lasted nearly four hours was the better option for football, October into November, or March into April. Reetz shared on average November and March have similar high temperatures.
Directors from northern Minnesota expressed concern about the reality of spring football in their areas. Many times, other traditional spring sports start in April, sometimes May in areas that see significant spring snow fall.
The reality is, though, what might work in more rural areas, might not work in more urban areas. And vice versa with available facilities and such.
"There are differences between metro and greater Minnesota schools. I will say that I think we are all in this together. We all want to see our kids play. There is no question that field conditions in northern Minnesota in March and April are worse than metro schools. The metro has dealt with more positive COVID cases than greater Minnesota has, but many of the highest cases per 10,000 people are in counties outside the metro right now," Reetz said.
An online petition on Change.org to allow MSHSL football in the fall has reached more than 22,000 signatures.
Reetz fielded roughly 250 e-mails from supporters from around the state. In his responses he attempted to try and shed light on the large list of unknowns.
"I have questions and concerns about crowd management at games, getting registration done, fields painted, schedules finalized and officials assigned. It is all doable but people will need to keep in mind that football games will be a game and not a community event. We will have very limited crowd sizes. We likely won’t have student sections and I’m not sure we can allow dance, cheer and band to be part of the games like we have in the past. MDH guidelines restrict spectators (non-players and coaches) to 250 people for home and away crowds," Reetz said.
Both Reetz and Troy Stein of Edina High School, the board treasurer and Region 5AA/6AA representative, cautioned a shift in decision at this time point. With schools just opening, both wonder if a spike will occur
"I don’t believe playing the games themselves will result in more positive tests, but teacher coaches interact with hundreds of students and athletes a day. We can’t control what coaches and athletes do when they are away from the school and team. If we have positive tests, games will go on without those athletes or coaches. If we have to quarantine large pods of players it will result in a forfeit without enough time to make up the game. Would our athletes prefer to play in front of their parents and a full student section with a chance for a full playoff season? That is more likely this spring," Reetz said.
A majority is needed from the board to move football or volleyball back to the fall. Volleyball, which will have its own separate vote, ended up in a 9-9 tie in the Aug. 4 vote.
"We have lots to think about and consider prior to the vote on Monday. My vote represents the 32 schools who elected me to the MSHSL board. I need to do everything I can represent Prior Lake as well as all the other schools in Region 3AA and 4AA. The vote wasn’t easy the first time and won’t be easy this time either," Reetz said.
Follow Eric Kraushar (@ChanChaskaSport) on Twitter on Monday morning for complete board coverage.
PRACTICE IN SESSION
Football and volleyball teams across the state were allowed to hold training sessions beginning Monday, Sept. 14. A total of 12 practices over a three-week stretch ending Oct. 3.
Chaska scheduled Monday through Thursday sessions beginning after school for three weeks. The culmination was going to be an inter-squad scrimmage.
"Once we found out the decision to play in the spring, our main goal with these training sessions was to build some competitive practices. We have to replace quite a lot from last year and we thought we could use these weeks as evaluation period. An opportunity to learn, to grow in confidence," Chaska head football coach Bryan Dahl said.
The thought that there may be an actual game that week is something that has the players and coaches reevaluating the road ahead.
"Our staff, we had meetings leading up to this fall, how we were going to handle these three weeks. Once we heard the news, we really started to meet and talk. How we were going to start to prepare as if we're to be playing a game two weeks from now," Dahl said.
That meant more special teams work. More operational changes. Reps among players looked different. Then again, the entire summer was a change. The normal weight room work, how the defending Class 5A champions were able to practice, had to be adjusted.
"We always talk to our kids that there is stuff that is out of our control. Mentally, physically, yeah, we're all behind where we normally would be. But the kids have done a tremendous job being day to day. Our kids are excited to play and we're excited if we have the chance to play to have our kids ready," Dahl said. "We'll have to find ways to accelerate the learning of our kids, the concepts and schemes."
Chaska and many area teams participated in week one of a fall 7-on-7 passing league last Saturday, Sept. 12. Week two is slated for this weekend.
Dahl said he was able to sit back and watch and enjoy like a parent would.
"It's been great for our kids, the leadership it's building, how they coach themselves and how they help their teammates," he said.