Faced with its biggest budget deficit in its history, the Minnesota State High School League took aim Thursday at charging admission at all state tournaments, including five sports at which fans currently watch for free.

The league’s board of directors, facing a $407,000 deficit for the current fiscal year, discussed with staff members the feasibility of debuting ticket sales at state tournaments for cross-country running, Alpine and Nordic skiing, golf and tennis at its board meeting in Brooklyn Center.

Tournament tickets sales remain the league’s top revenue source. At the meeting, staff members shared information they’ve gathered from sites of each of the tournaments where no admission is charged. Only state tournaments, and not the section play that precedes them, were discussed.

League Executive Director Erich Martens said proposals to begin ticket sales could come forward at the board’s Dec. 5 meeting. Proposals approved for any winter or spring tournaments could result in ticket sales for the current school year.

Charging for tickets poses a logistical challenge of funneling spectators toward ticket sellers at the state cross-country meet, on the St. Olaf College campus in Northfield, and the state golf tournaments in Becker, Jordan and Coon Rapids. If tickets are sold for the Class 2A tennis tournaments at the Baseline Tennis Center, the University of Minnesota would attach a facilities fee to tickets sold.

The league, which disclosed its budget deficit earlier this summer, is exploring all options to cut costs and raise tournament revenue. Martens recently attended area meetings of athletic directors to solicit ideas and feedback.

Third class added

for track and field

The board approved expanding track and field from two classes to three beginning with the 2021-22 school year.

Aaron Berndt, president of the track and field coaches association and boys’ coach at Wayzata, considered it a victory for all athletes in his sport. Nationally, an average of 8% of the competitors qualify for the state meet. In Minnesota, 3.4% qualify now.

“There will be more kids able to be showcased in championship meets and that was our goal,” Berndt said.

The June state meet held at Hamline University will expand to a three-day meet, with two preliminary meets Thursday, another preliminary and one final meet Friday, and two final meets Saturday.

The added class would begin in the same school year that cross-country and soccer each expand from two to three classes, and volleyball adds a fourth class.

The two-class state meet reported an average loss of $5,300 annually for the past five seasons, board members were told. Adding a third class is projected to increase that projected loss to about $7,500 per year.

Discrimination case vs. MSHSL advances

The MSHSL agreed to mediation through the Minnesota Department of Human Rights regarding a discrimination lawsuit by the family of Craig McDonald, a Minnehaha Academy senior and top college football recruit.

The league declared McDonald ineligible to play in the 2019-20 school year because he had used up the 12 consecutive semesters of eligibility, from seventh through 12th grade, allowed by a league bylaw. McDonald had repeated one grade when he changed schools.

The family’s appeal was not approved so it contacted the Minnesota Department of Human Rights.

“It’s good that they are going to do mediation,” said Shaun’Rae McDonald, Craig’s mother. “I just hope they hold to it.”

McDonald said she is unsure whether mediation will result in her son returning to the football field this fall but vowed to continuing fighting the league bylaw, which she considers unjust.