Minneapolis high school football teams played their first games of the 1918 season on Friday, Sept. 27, the same day the first reported case of influenza was reported in Minnesota.
Two weeks later, a surge in influenza cases would force an interruption to the football season.
On Oct. 11, the Minneapolis City Council, under the advice of the city health commissioner, banned gatherings at places of “amusement.” The ban, which shut down all places of public gatherings including football games, was to begin at 12:01 a.m. on Oct. 13. Initially, there was no end date to the ban.
Three football games involving city high schools were played on Oct. 11. No games were played in the city for the rest of October.
On Oct. 23, Minneapolis high school athletic directors announced that the season would resume on Nov. 1, even if it meant playing in front of no fans.
On that day two games were played in the city. North defeated South 13-0, while East defeated Central 14-7. “Spectatorless games are best of season,” read a headline in the Nov. 2 edition of the Minneapolis Tribune.
A week later, two more games were played with no fans in attendance. North defeated West 56-0, while East and South played to a 0-0 tie.
On Nov. 15, the Minneapolis health department lifted the ban on gatherings, effective at 11:30 a.m.
The Minneapolis Tribune reported that "the public at large, which has not been at large for more than a month, became aware of the lifting of the ban at just 11:31 a.m. when a downtown movie home opened its doors to the passing throngs." The headline over the Tribune's story read, "City Laughs Once More as Movies Open."
East and North were scheduled to play that day for the city championship. Expecting that the ban would be lifted, the game was postponed three days until Monday, Nov. 18 so fans could attend.
The Gophers and Wisconsin football teams were scheduled to play in Minneapolis on Nov. 16. Headline in the Saturday Tribune said, "Capacity crowd in Sight for Struggle." The Gophers defeated the Badgers 6-0 before a Northrop Field crowd of about 8,000. The game was played in “miserable weather,” according to the Tribune’s Fred Coburn.
The following MondayNorth capped an unbeaten season with a 7-6 victory over East before a crowd of 3,000 at North’s field.
The 1918 football season in outstate Minnesota mirrored the season in Minneapolis. Many teams were limited to just four or five games because of gaps of four or five weeks in their schedule. Bemidji High school defeated Blackduck 7-6 on Oct. 9 and then didn’t play again until Nov. 23. Bemidji won that game (against Thief River Falls) to finish the season 4-0.
According to a report in the November-December 2007 issue of “Public Health Reports,” between Sept. 30, 1918 and Jan. 6, 1919, there were 747 deaths and 14,411 cases related to the influenza in the city of Minneapolis.