On Monday, the Minnesota College Athletic Conference took a big hit as the presidents of the member colleges announced that the upcoming football, volleyball and soccer seasons would be canceled, citing guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Minnesota Department of Health.
In a statement released on the MCAC website, the presidents said that only low-risk sports will be allowed to continue competition in the fall. The statement went on to say that activities for basketball, baseball, softball and wrestling teams (which practice and compete in both the fall and spring semesters) are prohibited during the fall semester.
“The Minnesota State presidents of the member colleges of the MCAC met to determine how to move forward with intercollegiate athletics for fall semester in light of COVID-19. The presidents reaffirmed the commitment to protecting the health of student athletes,” the statement opened.
Low-risk sports still allowed to compete in the fall semester are limited to just clay target and golf.
“In consideration of the guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Minnesota Department of Health, fall sports will be limited to those that have been identified as low-risk. ... Discussions about the potential for spring seasons for these sports are continuing and guidance will be provided in the near future,” the statement continued.
The news hit heavy for area programs that were under two months away from beginning fall training camp. Mesabi Range, Hibbing, Itasca and Vermilion will all be without a volleyball team this season, while those same schools less Hibbing will not be allowed to field a football team.
Mesabi Range College head football coach Tom Inforzato said he was devastated by the news.
“There’s no better way to put it,” Inforzato said. “I just feel bad for our football players.”
New and returning players, as well as coaches, may not be happy with the news, but they have to understand it, said the veteran MCAC coach.
“We don’t have to agree with their decision, but we have to respect it.”
Inforzato says the news hits heavy for every program involved, not just football teams. The decision will affect players and coaches from 17 volleyball teams, 10 football teams, four women’s soccer teams and four men’s soccer teams across the state of Minnesota.
As conditions surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic are constantly in flux, Inforzato said he and his staff were hopeful the season would be allowed to begin, but were ready for the worst.
“We were prepared as far as this happening,’’ but really it was shocking to officially get the news Monday.
What’s next for the Norsemen? Inforzato says he’s reaching out to players individually with plans to return to action in January for conditioning and potentially spring football.
The MCAC was set to allow spring football practices beginning in the 2019-20 school year, but the coronavirus pandemic put those plans on hold. Now, the Norse and many other teams will hope for spring football again — this time in 2021.
“We just have to be proactive and positive,” Inforzato said about the possibility of returning to work in January.
Some incoming sophomores will return to Mesabi Range to finish their degrees. For some players, returning to Mesabi without football isn’t an option. Many more, however, are still on board to joining the team for the 2021 season. Ultimately, there isn’t much players or coaches can do right now, says Inforzato.
“We just have to stay positive through this whole thing and try to look for silver linings.”