Minnesota parents push for high school football to return this fall

Last month, the Minnesota State High School League voted to move the football season to the spring due to coronavirus concerns, but some parents are pushing for the games to return this fall.

Dawn Gillman and her fellow parents in Dassel-Cokato refuse to give up the fight. They want a fall high school football season in Minnesota. Not just practices - they want games for their student-athletes. Some are worried about lost recruitment and scholarship opportunities.

"It's not over," said Gillman.

“We want these kids to stay active, keep their grades up,” said Leslie Polzin, a Dassel-Cokato parent. “It’s a reason to keep their grades up. It’s not fair just to have them practice and not to play and show off their skills.”

The state high school league previously moved football to the spring out of concerns over COVID-19, but allowed teams to conduct a dozen practices during the traditional autumn months. Those sessions begin Monday.

Gillman and other parents insist now is the time to revisit the issue and to turn back on the Friday night lights. They’re voicing these concerns on their social media with rallying cry #letthemplayMN.

“That’s what our question is, why? Why can’t Minnesota play?” said Gillman.

She points to other states that have recently reversed course and are now playing a fall football season, including in nearby Michigan where players rallied to get back on the field.

In Minnesota, the Republican leader in the House of Representatives told FOX 9 he’s on board.

“I think we’ve already figured out how to interact with each other safely and this is just a small thing we can all rally behind and do safely,” said Rep. Kurt Daudt (R – Crown), the House Minority Leader.

The group insists one easy solution to the health risks out on the field is to put all the liability on the parents and if the families and student-athletes don’t feel safe, they can opt out of a fall football season.

“Help us with a waiver, help us convey to the Board of the Minnesota High School League that we, as parents, assume any risk and responsibility,” said Gillman.

Gillman and House Minority Leader Daudt asked rhetorically, how do we know the spring will be any safer for coronavirus spread? Throw in the high likelihood of frozen fields across the state in March, the parents’ sentiment is to get in an abbreviated season over the next few months. 

FOX 9 asked the Minnesota State High School League about the potential for fall football and its communication with student-athletes and parents:

"The League is currently working with a Return to Participation Task Force in formulating the year-long calendar for seasons for the remainder of the school year, with every effort to provide an opportunity for students in every one of the activities provided by the Minnesota State High School League. The calendar is anticipated to be finalized at the October 1, 2020 Board Meeting with publishing and dissemination of that calendar following the meeting."

Has the League heard from parents, coaches, players or any other interest groups recently about reconsidering the fall football season?

"The Minnesota State High School League and its Board of Directors hear regularly from our member schools, their administrators and coaches, as well as their community members regarding our programs. Given the uncertainties that exist within a Covid-19 pandemic, the excitement and energy around all of our programs is increased and has them voicing their desires and concerns."

Is there a process by which the League would ever re-open discussions about fall football?

"League decisions are led by our Board of Directors which meets every two months. In the past number of months, additional meetings have been scheduled to address the numerous issues that have been created by the impacts of the current pandemic. Included in our meetings is continued review of past decisions, the impacts of these decisions, new information and preparation for new decisions that need to be made."