Coon Rapids coach Nick Rusin talked to his team after a practice last fall in preparation for its first state tournament appearance since 1983. (Photo: Leila Navidi, Star Tribune)
After shutting down sports last spring because of the coronavirus pandemic, states all around the Midwest are pointing toward beginning high school fall sports on time. But this week California has moved its fall sports to winter, and states such as Texas and Georgia are delaying the start of football practice.
In North Dakota, it’s fall activities as scheduled, starting as soon as Aug. 3. Iowa plans to start Aug. 10. Michigan plans to start football on Aug. 10 and other sports two days later. Each state’s plan, mindful of state health department guidelines and the pandemic’s fluid nature, mentions that further guidance will be forthcoming in the coming days.
Over in South Dakota, the statewide high school organization voted Wednesday to approve a normal start time for all fall sports and activities.
In Minnesota, practices for all fall sports are set to begin Aug. 17. But a Minnesota State High School League task force was formed last week to draw up three return-to-play scenarios in anticipation of Gov. Tim Walz disclosing next week what schools will do this fall. League Executive Director Erich Martens said in an e-mail that the task force is expected to have its recommendations ready “on or around July 31,’’ before the league’s board of directors meets Aug. 4.
When Walz closed schools for distance learning last spring, sports and other school activities shut down. For the fall, he and education leaders are considering three options: A return to full classroom use, a continuation of distance learning, or a hybrid that uses both approaches.
A move to a mix of in-school and distance learning would provide momentum to re-start some sports while limiting others that involve a greater degree of contact. High school league board members raised some of those ideas when they met last week, including fewer competitions, shorter seasons, limited postseason and smaller team rosters.
Earlier this week California announced that it was moving all fall sports to winter start dates, with a calendar showing that sports such as football would hold championships in April. In Wisconsin, a proposal to move fall sports into the spring is expected to be considered at a meeting Thursday of the state's high school organization.
The idea of moving fall sports to another season has found little traction in Minnesota. At a high school league board workshop meeting last week, Prior Lake activities director Russ Reetz called it a “nuclear option.’’
Meanwhile, Texas officials announced Tuesday that football will be delayed in more highly populated areas, reflecting greater challenges dealing with COVID-19 in larger communities. Georgia also plans to delay its football season by two weeks but will allow other sports to start on time.