DEERWOOD, Minn. – For high school student-athletes who competed in state tournaments last school year, memories undoubtedly remain. The money used to reimburse schools for sometimes thousands of dollars in costs? Not so much.
Rising tournament expenses and shrinking revenue left only $32,734 for reimbursement to member schools that sent athletes to state events in the 2014-15 school year. Rather than dividing the money among hundreds of schools and mailing checks barely worth their postage, the Minnesota State High School League’s Board of Directors voted Tuesday to suspend tournament reimbursement for a year.
Soccer and football, which played state tournament semifinal and championship games outdoors for the first time in 33 years, took a large hit in ticket revenue. Football paid attendance dropped by almost 50 percent.
Money reimbursed to schools participating in state tournaments rose steadily through 2008-09, topping $1 million, before declining to about $245,000 in 2013-14. Schools typically used the money to help defray their tournament expenses.
To get nothing back, however, is unprecedented.
Fewer dollars looks like this: After 2013-14, Eden Prairie received $5,775.42 for participation in 22 state tournaments. Based on the figures from 2014-15, the Eagles would have received just $636.89.
The league faces one more fall of playing 12 soccer games and 21 football games in the state tournament outside. But moving those games into the U.S. Bank Stadium, home of the Vikings, in 2016 has league executive director Dave Stead optimistic.
“The weather was horrible last year and that’s why the numbers were down,” Stead said. “Once we get in the new building, I’m sure a number of people are going to want to come … see the tournament[s] so the numbers are going to come back up and our reimbursement opportunities will be coming up as well.”
Citing liability concerns, the league voted to prohibit unmanned aerial vehicles, or drones, at league-sponsored postseason tournament venues.
“We have some schools that are using them to videotape football practices,” Stead said. “I’m suggesting they have a policy of some kind from a liability standpoint.”