Reporting Jeff Wald
MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – There has been talk of moving the Prep Bowl, Minnesota’s annual series of high school football championship games, outdoors since TCF Bank Stadium was built on the University of Minnesota campus.
Now that the Metrodome will soon undergo a major reconstruction for the new Vikings stadium, it means the Prep Bowl will have to venture elsewhere for the two seasons the Dome can’t be used. At its annual board meeting last week, the Minnesota State High School League approved moving the high school football state championships to TCF Bank Stadium starting in 2014.
The Prep Bowl consists of seven games over two days, and it marks the first time in more than 30 years that the games will be played outside. The positive: Football is meant to be played in the elements. The negative: Weather can do and often does just about anything in November. It could be sunny and in the 70s, or it could be windy, cold, raining or even snowing.
The switch means a couple of things locally. First and foremost, the dates of the Prep Bowl have to change due to scheduling conflicts with Gopher football home games. The Prep Bowl is normally played the Friday and Saturday after Thanksgiving, but in 2014 it’ll be held the weekend before Thanksgiving.
In 2015, the high school football season gets a little more interesting because it may have to start two weeks earlier than normal. The Gophers have home games scheduled for Nov. 21 and Nov. 28, meaning TCF Bank Stadium would host the Prep Bowl Nov. 13-14, which is normally when semifinals are played. There’s three options there: The regular season would have to be shortened, the section playoffs would be shortened or you start the season earlier. Most high schools already have one game in the books before the school year actually starts, so starting earlier wouldn’t be the worst thing. It all depends on MSHSL rules and when fall practices can start.
Regardless of when the Prep Bowl is actually played, it’s a good move to go to TCF Bank Stadium for high school football in the state. While most Division I senior football recruits are verbally committed by then, the University of Minnesota has some of the best facilities in the country, and it could make a premiere athlete change their mind and stay close to home with National Signing Day in February. That, and it’s always more fun to take your game to a bigger stage.
As convenient as it is for fans to watch football in a climate-controlled environment like the Metrodome, the players prefer to play outside in the conditions. All high school football games, with a few minor exceptions, are played outside in Minnesota until the state semifinals.
Local Basketball Recruiting Update
There’s a couple local updates when it comes to high school basketball and the future of the local programs. First off, don’t be surprised if local star Tyus Jones, who is entering his senior season at Apple Valley, does not end up at Minnesota. His best friend in competitive basketball, Jahlil Okafor of Illinois, posted the list of his final eight schools last week on Twitter. They were listed as Arizona, Baylor, Duke, Illinois, Kentucky, Kansas, Michigan State and Ohio State.
The two have vowed to play together in college since they’ve emerged as two of the top recruits in the country for the 2014 class. The Gophers were not one of Okafor’s final eight so if the two stick to their word, they won’t be at Minnesota. If I had to guess, they’ll end up either at Duke or Michigan State.
Richard Pitino, though he can’t comment on it until a signing becomes official, locked up the fourth commitment of his first recruiting class on Sunday. Joey King of Eastview, who played last season at Drake, posted on Twitter Sunday that he’s transferring back to Minnesota and will play on scholarship. He’s expected to be eligible immediately as he’s moving back home to be closer to family. This is probably also more assurance that Jones won’t be coming to Minnesota. The two were rivals in high school, aren’t friends off the court and it’s nearly impossible that they’d be teammates in college. At 6-9, King will provide the Gophers a post presence and he can stretch defenses with his shooting ability.
There’s been no official word since Joe Coleman left the Gophers program a few weeks ago where he might be headed next. Though there has been interest from several Division I programs, don’t be surprised if Coleman ends up at a Division II or even Division III school. He would have to sit out a year, with two years of eligibility left, if he were to transfer to another Division I school. If he was to drop, he would be eligible immediately and would likely be one of his team’s best players wherever he went.
I wouldn’t rule out him landing at Winona State, Minnesota State University, Mankato or even at St. Thomas in St. Paul. A few former St. Thomas players told me over the weekend they wouldn’t be surprised at all if he was playing for the Tommies next season.
If you’re looking to watch the state’s top high school talent is it stands for the next few years, head to Augusburg College Friday night for the Clash of the Classes Tournament. It’ll feature the top 11 players from each of the four high school classes in Minnesota. The class of 2016 will face the 2017 class at 6 p.m., followed by the 2015 class against the 2014 class at 8 p.m.
Some players in the late game to watch include the “Big Three” of Jones, Reid Travis and Rashad Vaughn. Other players to watch include J.P. Macura of Lakeville North, Amir Coffey of Hopkins, Jarvis Johnson of DeLaSalle, Brock Bertram of Apple Valley and Ian Theisen of Osseo.