BROOKLYN CENTER -- The fall sports season will look quite different this year.

But Minnesota will have fall sports.

The Minnesota State High School League voted Tuesday to move forward with most fall sports this season amid concerns over the coronavirus pandemic. The league’s plans include modifications, such as reduced schedules and traveling.

Most notably, the football and volleyball seasons have been moved to a makeshift “fourth season” in the spring, to be held between March 15 and May 15, 2021. All other sports -- cross country, soccer, girls swimming and diving, and girls tennis -- are scheduled to begin practices on the originally planned date of Aug. 17.

The MSHSL’s Board of Directors ate up nearly three hours to finalize plans for fall sports during the 2020-21 academic year during its bi-monthly meeting on Tuesday.

Newsletter signup for email alerts

Individual fall sports -- cross country, girls swimming and diving, and girls tennis -- were allowed to return with the following stipulations: No more than three teams are allowed at a cross country meet; no more than two teams in tennis and swimming events; a limit of 1-2 events per week, per team; and a reduction in the number of competitions. The motion was approved 17-1.

Soccer was unanimously approved for the fall with the following stipulations: a 20% reduction in weeks for the season; a 30% reduction in the number of competitions; no scrimmages; and a limit of 1-2 games per week, per team. “Decisions on postseason events” are still to be determined, according to MSHSL media specialist John Millea.

Incoming Bemidji High School senior Sophia Morin (28) passes the ball in a Class A state quarterfinal game against Mahtomedi in October 2019 at Husky Stadium in St. Cloud. (Jillian Gandsey / Bemidji Pioneer)
Incoming Bemidji High School senior Sophia Morin (28) passes the ball in a Class A state quarterfinal game against Mahtomedi in October 2019 at Husky Stadium in St. Cloud. (Jillian Gandsey / Bemidji Pioneer)

The board went back and forth on a volleyball decision, citing concerns over a team sport being played indoors, but also scheduling conflicts over popular club programs that run in the typical high school offseason.

The board first voted to a 9-9 tie to move the season to the spring. Without a majority, the motion failed, but so did a new motion to start the season in the fall by a 10-8 vote. The board then returned to the same spring proposal, which passed 11-7 on the second attempt.

Football was the final domino to fall. A first motion to begin the season on Aug. 17 failed 12-6, while the ensuing motion to hold the season in the spring passed 13-5. The regular season will consist of six games and a “postseason plan to be determined,” according to Millea.

In light of Tuesday’s decisions, the state high school league adopted a “four-season” calendar plan for the 2020-21 year. Fall and winter seasons will commence as scheduled; football and volleyball will participate in the spring season; and the traditional spring sports will now play in the “summer season” from May until early July.

The MSHSL also approved a motion allowing volleyball and football teams to hold practices this fall. Spring sports that lost their season in the spring of 2020 will also be allowed to practice this fall.

Previously, the MSHSL formally canceled 2020 spring sports on April 23, which came six weeks after it postponed the start of the season due to COVID-19. The league also canceled remaining girls basketball and adapted floor hockey state tournament games, as well as boys basketball section and state tournaments, during the winter season.

Tuesday’s decisions come after the Minnesota Department of Education announced its Safe Learning Plan for the 2020-21 academic year on Thursday, July 30. The plan includes a localized approach for deciding between in-person and distance learning, which independent school districts will implement based on data in each of Minnesota’s 87 counties.