High school league tackles football playoff, practice issues

  • Article by: DAVID LA VAQUE , Star Tribune
  • Updated: April 4, 2014 - 7:05 AM


The calendar said spring and the weather forecast said winter, but the talk was mostly football Thursday at the Minnesota State High School League board meeting.

A playoff proposal was rejected. A limit on summer contact practices drew support. And the board heard from five activities directors about whether to postpone wholesale changes to how teams build their schedules.

The rejected plan would have revamped the Class 6A section quarterfinals. The league’s football advisory committee sought to change the method of seeding teams and create a 32-team tournament bracket.

A 32-team format would eliminate the need for crossing over section teams in the semifinals and reseeding for the state tournament. Coaches of the 32 Class 6A teams had voted 30-1 in favor. The activities directors had voted 26-6 in favor.

All 32 teams in Class 6A last fall were from the metro area. Board member and Hopkins activities director Dan Johnson, who backed the proposal, said he heard concerns about “moving away from our philosophy of regional representation.”

Limiting contact at summer football practices also generated discussion.

According to league research, Minnesota has the most liberal rules in the country for what is allowed at summer football practices.

The league’s sports medicine advisory committee supported capping individuals and teams at six days of contact practice during the summer coaching waiver period. In addition, an acclimatization period before allowing full pads and contact and a limit on practice length was recommended.

The board voted to send the proposal to its 48-member representative assembly for a vote May 12. A two-thirds majority vote is required for approval. The changes, if approved, would begin in 2015.

Totino-Grace coach Jeff Ferguson said he supports a limit on contact practice but urged the league “to proceed slowly and not create unintended consequences.”

“We actually have more injuries doing 7-on-7 passing stuff without the helmets and shoulder pads,” Ferguson said.

In January, the league approved a plan to ensure a full slate of regular-season games without requiring teams to travel extensively. It would group large numbers of teams — at least 16 whenever possible — primarily based on geography and enrollment.

League associate director Kevin Merkle said he hopes to have the districts, which could affect the makeup of present conferences, set in June for the 2015 season. Before Thursday’s meeting, three activities directors spoke in favor of a 2015 start, while two pushed to wait until 2016.

“We’ll take that back to the [district football] committee,” Merkle said, adding, “There’s a lot of support for moving ahead, and I think we’re on a timeline that can work.”

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