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home : columns : dave fjeld
October 30, 2020

9/16/2020 9:33:00 AM
Too early to tell?
Believe it or not, but Friday night would have marked the third or fourth week (depending on if your team was playing a zero week game) of the football season for Minnesota schools. Volleyball teams would have completed more than a third of their season.
Instead, football teams donned the pads for the first time this week and spikers broke out the volleyballs - for three weeks of practice.
Not a game in sight - until March or April.
Was it the right decision to move high school football and volleyball to the spring?
While I was on board with the Minnesota State High School League's decision in early August, I'm beginning to think now that it was a mistake. While it still may be too early to tell, every indication is that COVID-19 largely hasn't affected teams in Iowa and South Dakota. While those states are seeing surges in cases and, yes, a few schools have had to cancel or postpone games, it's mostly been business as usual.
In fact, Minnesota went through a shortened, but completed, amateur baseball season with virtually no problems.
Iowa football teams finished their third week of the season on Friday and, at least in Northwest Iowa, there appeared to be only one game cancellation due to COVID-19.
Volleyball teams also appear to be conducting play as usual.
I believe Minnesota high school teams could have and should have played their prep seasons.
However, Minnesota's approach to school is considerably different than in Iowa and South Dakota. The type of learning model that each school is employing, based on their county's case count, varies from district to district. And, let's face it, if you can't be "in school" to learn, you shouldn't be playing games. With schools offering differing learning models, it might have been difficult to piece together a full schedule.
Again, Iowa isn't even halfway through the season yet. If suddenly there's a jump in cases in schools, and teams are suddenly forced to not only cancel games, but seasons, too, Minnesota is going to look smart. But if the opposite happens and Iowa and South Dakota play out the football and volleyball seasons, Minnesota will have only one line to fall back on - "We wanted to be safe rather than sorry."
Unfortunately, it will have been both safe and sorry.
Fees increasing
There's another problem rearing its ugly head in relation to COVID-19.
The Minnesota State High School League is raising its participation fees to schools, with some schools having to pay as much as a 300% increase.
Windom falls into that category.
Windom made its yearly payment of $3,300 in August. However, now the MSHSL is asking for two "COVID-19" membership fee installments - one in November, the other in February - totalling an additional $7,000.
That additional $7,000 is equivalent to two junior high coaches' salaries, or an extra play director and cross country coach.
The MSHSL has been hurting for money in recent years, but it's now come to a head with COVID-19 putting a real dent in the League's coffers.
I understand the difference has to be made up some way, but that's a big hurt for some schools, maybe many. Those extra fees may force a school to cut a couple of programs just to make the payment.
You have to wonder if high school sports may be reaching a crossroads. I'm in full support of MSHSL-sponsored sports and activities and I would rather see a school pay the extra amount than consider the alternative.
The alternative, you ask?
Club sports. I think you're opening up a can of worms if you go in that direction, mostly because I think there would be opportunities to create "all-star teams" - teams made up of the best athletes from various communities.
Don't go there.
However, schools are now in a financial position to demand more accountability from the League and, perhaps, a better way of doing things.

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