The Minnesota State High School Board of Directors cast its votes Tuesday on what to do with fall sports in lieu of the COVID-19 pandemic.

If you're a soccer, swimming and diving, girls tennis or cross-country participant, get ready to have a season beginning Aug. 17.

If your thing is football or volleyball, you’re going to have to wait. Those sports have been pushed to the spring, the indoor risk of volleyball and the close contact of football regarded by the board as too much with COVID-19 being uncontained.

The MSHSL board voted individually on what to do with all six of those sports late Tuesday morning and early afternoon.

There were innumerable factors to consider — certainly keeping students, coaches and officials safe in light of the pandemic at the top of the list.

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The MSHSL had been meeting for months to draw up plans and had advisory committees assembled for each sport.

“I’ve got to hand it to (the MSHSL),” said Scott McCready, St. Charles activities director and baseball coach. “They were incredibly thorough in thinking things out. There is just a lot to consider. These were going to be no-win decisions for anyone to come up with. But now that we’ve got them, this is just the beginning.”

Minnesota high school sports in 2020 will begin with soccer, swimming and diving, cross-country and girls tennis players getting in their seasons when they normally do — though how they’re constructed will be far from normal.

The MSHSL board voted to modify all of those seasons, with a 20% reduction in the number of weeks in a season, a 30% reduction in competitions, no scrimmages, and no more than two competitions per week.

Also, cross-country meets will be limited to just three teams, while tennis and swimming and diving will have only dual meets.

Soccer figured to be a dicey decision for the MSHSL board, with the sport having its share of contact. That it’s played outdoors and with much less contact than football, likely green-lighted it.

Now that it’s being offered, Rochester Lourdes girls soccer coach Sarah Groven is running a gamut of emotions. She knows this will hardly be business as usual.

“I’m thrilled for our kids and that they’ll have an opportunity to play,” she said. “But this also comes with a lot of apprehension. Our players’ safety is No. 1, and we are now going to have to do things differently. We have to decide how we do practices and make sure everyone is following the (safety) rules. I am glad (the MSHSL) made the decision they did. But there is going to be more pressure now and added responsibility.”

In moving to spring, football and volleyball will likely be played from March 15 until May 15, with spring sports then being moved from May 15 to July 15, in what will be considered a new “fourth season.” Also, fans will likely be eliminated from the picture, safety in mind.

Century High School football players work on a drill during the first day of their summer football camp Monday, Aug. 3, 2020, at Century High School in Rochester. (Joe Ahlquist / jahlquist@postbulletin.com)
Century High School football players work on a drill during the first day of their summer football camp Monday, Aug. 3, 2020, at Century High School in Rochester. (Joe Ahlquist / jahlquist@postbulletin.com)

It’s the second straight year that traditional spring sports will have been fiddled with. This past spring, those sports never did get played, as the MSHSL shut everything down in early March because of the pandemic.

Now, they’ll be asked to begin their seasons a shade later than usual and extend into July, a first in Minnesota.

McCready, who backs the decision to move things, admits there are concerns with summertime playing.

“Finding coaches who want to coach into July won’t be easy,” he said. “As an AD, I am particularly concerned about that at the lower levels.”

The vote on what to do with football came last on Tuesday, though it was certainly not least on the sporting public’s mind.

The vote to switch it to spring was not a particularly close one, with it passing 11-7.

The close confines of football, with all of its contact, made postponing it to spring an easy sell.

Rochester Century football coach Jon Vik was pleased the move was made. He also came away impressed with the MSHSL.

“I really appreciate the MSHSL debating the merits of all options,” he said. “I feel like this decision gives us the best chance of having the most complete season.”

Rochester Mayo football coach Donny Holcomb also agreed with the move. But he admits to not being much for waiting.

“I am not very patient, so I don’t want to wait until March,” he said with a laugh. “But I’m glad our players are being given a season. I think this is the best-case scenario.”

Volleyball’s shift to spring appears the most problematic. Club volleyball, which ordinarily runs through the spring and draws the best players statewide, will likely be going simultaneously with the newly constructed high school season.

Kasson-Mantorville coach Adam VanOort has big concerns with that. He says as many as five of his players might opt to play club volleyball rather than for his high school team.

“I’m a little bit concerned,” he said. “There are a lot of open questions with this, and I’ll be waiting on some decisions that are really going to affect us.”

MSHSL's fall sports moves

  • Soccer, cross country, tennis and swimming/diving will be played this fall, though with shortened schedules.
  • Football and volleyball are being moved to spring, with the usual spring sports being shifted to a "fourth season" that will start in May and finish in July.
  • Fans will likely not be permitted at swimming/diving meets when those meets are conducted at high schools or middle schools. The same will be true at volleyball meets, though students might be exempt from this.
  • The MSHSL still has a number of nitty-gritty decisions to finalize with fall sports, as well as the sports that have been moved to spring.
  • Winter sports have yet to be addressed by the MSHSL.