Game on in Iowa means Minnesota high school student-athletes could be on the move

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Minnesota high school football and volleyball players, coaches, and fans finally learned this week that their 2020 fall seasons wouldn't be happening because of COVID-19 concerns. Instead, the Minnesota State High School League announced that football and volleyball would only be allowe to practice this fall and that they would return to playing games next spring.

Related State high school league approves soccer, other sports, to start August 17

While most of Minnesota's football and volleyball players are looking forward to the spring, some could be pondering a move that would allow them to continue playing their fall sports as normal.

On July 29, the Iowa High School Athletic Assocation and the Iowa High School Girls Athletic Union announced guidelines for their fall sports seasons. The guidelines allow for both high school football and volleyball to be played this fall under COVID-19 protocols.

With even the slightest opening for hope of an Iowa high school football or volleyball season this fall, Minnesota families could opt to let their student-athletes continue playing by sending them to the Hawkeye State. However, there are a few hurdles to get through. 

"It would be similar to any other year or any other situation where a family from out of state were to move into Iowa and enroll their student at a particular school district," said Iowa High School Athletic Association executive director Tom Keating. "In order for the student to be immediately eligible for varsity competition, we would need what we call a 'bonafide family move' into the district."

In order for that to happen, the moving family would need to sell their home in Minnesota, or end their rental agreement. From there, they would move into the Iowa school district of their choice, establish residency for the purpose of having a home in Iowa, and begin the school year. 

"The school district would ask for things like a new rental agreement, an Iowa driver's license, or things that they could document that they are indeed residents in the district," he said. "What you couldn't have is one house in Minnesota and then an apartment in a district in Iowa. Your family has to move with the intention of becoming residents of that district."

Social media reports have indicated that some high school football players are making the move to Iowa after their state high school leagues canceled their fall season. According to television station KCCI in Des Moines, Jake Rubley, the top quarterback prospect in Colorado, is already practicing at Valley High School in West Des Moines. Colorado, like Minnesota, pushed their upcoming high school football season to the spring.

Players from Illinois and even California are said to have reportedly moved to Iowa with their families to continue playing football in the fall.

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— Landon Kawananakoa Nelson (@LandonNelson24) July 24, 2020

Moving to Iowa solely for sports reasons isn't something Keating is advertising.

"That's a pretty big life change in order to find an opportunity to play in a season. It's also rolling the dice," Keating said. "We plan on having a fall season, but with COVID-19 we don't know what's going to happen in two weeks. We're not advertising come to Iowa and play. Families do what they think is best for their family."

The thought of losing Minnesota high school athletes to surrounding states offering a fall sports season is something MSHSL executive director Erich Martens hopes isn't a reality.

"We do think there's something special in participating with those teammates you grew up, played at other levels with, and worked to get to the high school level with," Martens said. "We hope families strongly consider what the impact of moving could be."

For Minnesota high school student-athletes, if they moved to Iowa to play high school football or volleyball, they would not be able to come back to Minnesota in the spring for the newly moved seasons. According to the MSHSL:

"Students who transfer schools from one state to another will have to meet eligibility requirements in the state to which they transfer. The same would be required if they transfer back to Minnesota. Minnesota State High School League, and many other states, have a bylaw that limits participation of a student to one competitive interscholastic season per school year. Therefore, if a student did transfer to a school in a state that was offering football in the fall and did participate, they would not be eligible for football in the spring season here in Minnesota. Participation constitutes enrolling in a school, registering for the sport and participating in at least one practice or training session."

Martens believes the atmosphere of Minnesota high schools sports speaks for itself.

"There are not many states that can access the professional venues in the way that we do for our state tournament," he said. "We'd love to have families and students stay within their schools, communities, and connected to the individuals they've worked with for a long, long time, especially with their friends."