Could the cry of "Play Ball!" mix with the sound of crunching shoulder pads in the spring of 2021? With the start of high school fall sports practice about a month away, the Minnesota State High School League (MSHSL) discussed options Monday. The concept of moving fall sports to next spring could buy time to come up with a way to safely play.

But what about spring sports? Some have offered up the idea of flipping the seasons with more now risk sports on the spring calendar. MSHSL media specialist John Milea answered  that idea with a question, saying on Twitter, "This question has been asked frequently. No options are off the table. But ... what if spring sports are moved to this fall, followed by cancellation of sports during the fall, meaning spring sports miss TWO YEARS of competition. No easy or simple solutions. Please wear a mask."

Monday's informal meeting covered three options for fall sports according to the Star Tribune.

  • Start as scheduled on August 17 (August 10 for football teams with a zero week game).
  • Shorten the season for teams, limit the postseason and reduce roster size.
  • Move some or all fall sports to next spring.

Fall sports include football, volleyball, girls tennis and swimming, and boys and girls cross country and soccer. Spring sports include baseball, softball, boys tennis, boys and girls lacrosse and track and field, and clay target (which also offers a more informal fall season).

More clarity will come to the situation when the governor and health department officials announce the intention for school attendance this fall. That revelation is expected the week of July 27. In a Coffee and Conversation virtual meeting last week, Owatonna superintendent Jeff Elstad indicated that school districts across the state might operate under different protocol depending on the level of coronavirus infection. What that means for sports is murky.

At Tuesday's MSHSL meeting, budget concerns were a main topic. Eighty-percent of the league's budget comes from state tournaments. That includes television rights, tickets and sponsorships. The entire boys basketball tournament was canceled this past winter along with half of the girls event.

If fall and winter sports are cancelled this year, their budget deficit will reportedly approach $3.2 million. Millea pointed out the board "is not part of state government and receives no funding from the state of Minnesota." A task force will be created to study the league's funding options.

In general, Tuesday's meeting offered "Lots of questions, lots of possibilities. No answers right now," tweeted Millea.