Recommendation on return to participation expected

Fri 7-31-2020

BROOKLYN CENTER - A task force is close to the end of its work in developing a plan for Minnesota student-athletes to safely return to participation for the fall sports season.

The task force was formed on July 14. It is expected to complete its work Friday and have its recommendations reviewed by the Minnesota State High School League’s sports medicine advisory committee this weekend.

The recommendation the goes to a board workshop meeting on Monday and to the full board for consideration at its regularly scheduled meeting on Tuesday.

The task force consists of activities administrators from throughout Minnesota and is assisted by League staff. Their work has used the following guiding principles in exploring options in a return to participation:

  • Prioritize the health and safety for all to the greatest extent possible
  • Align return to participation options with the requirements and recommendations of state organizations and agencies focused on safety and return to learn models
  • Provide an opportunity for education-based participation in each sport and activity
  • Demonstrate equity and fairness in preparation of programming options
  • Acknowledge financial implications
  • Apply guidelines consistently

There appears to be four options for the fall season:

  • A practice-only season with no games in the hopes that the Coronavirus situation will make them possible in the spring;
  • Playing a reduced schedule 20-30 shorter season this fall;
  • Deferring the fall season entirely and fitting it in without going head-to-head with traditional spring sports offerings;
  • Holding a traditional season that starts on time.

League officials provided a high-level summary of the work of its back-to-participation task force for about school officials around the state in a virtual meeting Thursday.

Fall sports practice for most teams is scheduled to start Aug. 17, but a few football teams with Zero Week games could start as early as Aug. 10.

Governor Tim Walz's announcement Thursday of an executive order providing districts direction for how to return to learning could make sports complicated.

Local school districts will have flexibility in their individual reopening decisions. That could mean schools scheduled to compete against each other in sports could be in different stages of in-school or distance learning. That could affect the number of participants and what sports would field teams.

The task force’s four options will cover all 43 sports and activities under the league’s guidance, which would total approximately 240,000 students at 500 member schools.

Also, the league is projecting a $3.2 million budget deficit if fall and winter sports are canceled. Much of that hit would come from losing the football and boys hockey tournaments, far away its most profitable events.

League officials say that they have not received any indication from state health officials that would place limitations on crowd size.