One could almost hear the cheering last week when the Minnesota State High School League reinstated football and volleyball as fall sports.

The move is a reversal from the league's decision on Aug. 4 to delay football and volleyball until spring. The MSHSL had deemed the close contact of those two sports made it too risky to play during the COVID-19 pandemic. Lesser-contact sports, such as swimming and diving, cross-country, girls tennis and boys and girls soccer were allowed to proceed.

But announcement of the delay caused a hue and cry among sports players, fans and parents. At one point, parents gathered outside the governor's mansion in St. Paul to chant, "Give us the ball. Let's play this fall."

So when the MSHSL's 20-member board met this week, members voted to bring back both sports. Football was approved on a 15-3 vote. Volleyball won with a 14-4 vote.

A number of factors led to the switch:

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  • All four of the states sharing a border with Minnesota – Wisconsin, Iowa, North Dakota and South Dakota – are playing football, and Minnesota fans asked why they were being treated differently.
  • A survey of the MSHSL's 500 member schools asking when football and volleyball should be played was answered by 394 members, 80% of which favored fall football and 76% of which favored fall volleyball.
  • The Big Ten recently reversed its decision to delay college football until spring. The college conference, which includes Minnesota, will now play an eight-game schedule.
  • Kris Ehresman, infectious disease director for the Minnesota Department of Health, said that she had seen "no difference now in risk from earlier in the summer when the MSHSL decided to wait on these sports."

The possibility of state tournaments and how to deal with a 250-spectator limit are still being considered, but players and fans are gleeful at the return of fall sports. We join their cheers that a decades-long fall tradition is being upheld.