Football, volleyball, after all?

MSHSL revisiting earlier decision, may reinstate both sports

by Nick Wognum
A new scoreboard at Ely School Stadium, set to be installed this week, may get some use yet this fall.
What seemed improbable only a week ago now looks possible, with the Minnesota State High School League poised to vote Monday on proposals to reverse an earlier decision to move both football and volleyball to the spring.
If approved, an abbreviated football season could begin as soon as Oct. 2, while volleyball games would start later in the month, according to plans addressed earlier this week during a nearly four-hour MSHSL board workshop.
The sudden turn of events has put Ely in a state of limbo, with school officials waiting for Monday’s MSHSL vote before making further determinations related to the two sports.
It was the board workshop where the “Let Them Play” movement generated more steam, with several board members voicing support for what started as a grassroots effort to get the MSHSL to reverse course.
Via social media, protests and other means, thousands of people rallied behind “Let Them Play,” and organizers led a Tuesday morning meeting that included presentations by Sanford Health physicians.
They’ve cited an array of data, including no known transmission of COVID-19 in roughly 1,000 high school football games across the country already this fall.
Supporters also pointed to data showing that the virus has not caused the death of anyone under age 30 and the successful resumption of youth sports across Minnesota and the nation, while Sanford representatives say school closures and the cancellation of activities have resulted in a marked increase of mental health issues among teens.
Currently, 37 states have allowed high school football in the fall, including all of the states surrounding Minnesota - Iowa, Wisconsin, North Dakota and South Dakota.
In August, the MSHSL put football and volleyball on hold and, in a controversial decision, moved both sports to a spring season initially tabbed for mid-March until early-May with traditional spring sports bumped out to mid-May to as late as mid-July.
Several other fall sports, however, are carrying on as scheduled this fall, with Ely fielding boys and girls cross country teams, girls swimming in a cooperative with Northeast Range, and girls soccer in a newly-formed cooperative with Mesabi East.
All fall activities are operating amid COVID-related protocols and with shortened seasons and limited postseason play.
Football and volleyball, at least for now, are in the midst of a three-week period allowing for practices but not competition during the fall. Ely’s teams have not taken part.
The decisions related to fall sports could offer some clues as to what may be ahead for winter sports, including hockey, boys and girls basketball and Nordic skiing. All are currently scheduled to begin practice sessions in November, with games and contests starting later that month or early-December, depending on the activity.
Early indications are the MSHSL may push for shortened seasons and various safety protocols, if those sports are allowed to proceed.