(Editor's Note: This story was updated at 10:45 a.m. Wednesday to note that a MSHSL meeting will be held on Monday.)
The final whistle hasn’t been blown on high school football and volleyball across Minnesota just yet.
The Minnesota State High School League announced Wednesday morning that it will meet at 9 a.m. Monday to determine whether high school football and volleyball can resume this fall.
MSHSL Board President Blaine Novak called for the special meeting after the Board on Tuesday reviewed the previous decision to move football and volleyball to the spring.
A three-day notice is required for the Board to hold a special meeting.
Illinois and Minnesota are the only states in the Midwest that are not playing football in 2020 due to COVID-19 concerns.
Colorado and Michigan had originally postponed football and volleyball until the spring of 2021, but on Sept. 3, Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer lifted her restrictions, and Michigan will have high school football and volleyball –– albeit shortened seasons –– this fall. Colorado also reversed course.
On Aug. 4, football and volleyball in Minnesota were moved from this fall to a season that is expected to run from mid-March to mid-May.
That decision, for football, came by a 13-5 vote after a vote on allowing it to be played in the fall failed with a 12-6 margin. Volleyball was also put in the March-through-May “fourth season” with an 11-7 vote after the vote to play in the fall failed, 10-8.
If the two sports are moved back to the fall, football practices could start on Sept. 21, with first games played on Oct. 2. With a delay due to a six-week club team schedule, volleyball would likely begin on Oct. 12 with matches starting on Oct. 22.
The pressure to play is rising in Illinois and Minnesota.
Illinois reaffirmed its decision to keep football on a late-winter 2021 schedule on Tuesday.
Illinois governor J.B. Pritzker was pressed by reporters that day on his decision to postpone football and volleyball, and he gushed that, “If they have decided to endanger children in those states … that is their decision.”
On Saturday, parents and athletes rallied outside Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz’s residence in St. Paul with the rallying cry, “Give us the Ball. Let’s play this fall.”
As of Tuesday, Minnesota is one of 19 states, along with Washington D.C., that will not have a fall football season. The list includes: California; Colorado; Connecticut; Delaware; Hawaii; Illinois; Maine; Maryland; Massachusetts; Nevada; New Mexico; New York; North Carolina; Oregon; Rhode Island; Vermont; Virginia; and Washington.
All four states sharing a border with Minnesota — Wisconsin, Iowa, North Dakota and South Dakota — are playing football this fall. Wisconsin is scheduled to begin football on Sept. 23 while Iowa and the Dakotas are already underway.
“To see football around us has impacted how our coaches feel,” said MSHSL Associate Director Bob Madison. “With Michigan’s decision, it has impacted where they are. … We have played under two weeks in the past when we had a facility issue for the Prep Bowl.”
Madison added, “Football players are saying, ‘Why not us?’ I believe our student-athletes have the best opportunity in our schools.”
MDH UPDATES COVID NUMBERS
Early in Tuesday’s MSHSL workshop, representatives from the Minnesota Department of Health updated the board on COVID-19 numbers around the state.
Football and weight training were combined due to a lack of football games in the summer. In total, there were five outbreaks, with three-to-seven cases per outbreak.
Volleyball had four outbreaks, with 2-to-4 cases per outbreak and all within team transmission. The data was compiled with college-aged athletes.
A study was also conducted with 348 schools, with 1,248 fall teams, reporting that 199 teams — 16 percent — were affected by the coronavirus. That includes having athletes that tested positive, students that sat out due to close contact, missing practices or missing games. The goal is to collect data every two weeks.
The rates in each sport:
Boys cross-country: 11 percent; girls cross-country: 8 percent
Boys soccer: 22 percent; girls soccer: 23 percent
Girls swim and dive: 20 percent
Girls tennis: 20 percent
“The sports that have closer contact and high levels of exertion are going to be riskier than those that are practiced more individually or without contact because of the nature of the way this virus is transmitted,” said senior epidemiologist Jayne Griffith. “(It is) most efficiently transmitted with close contact. If someone is breathing heavily, yelling or exerting themselves, they’re able to generate and disperse particles into the airspace.”