Sticker Shock: Local High School Athletic Directors Talk Increased Fees from the MSHSL

A budget shortfall from the MSHSL has led to an increase in league fees upwards of 400% for some schools.

DULUTH, Minn. – Despite the recent optimism for the return of sports, it’s been a rough year for athletic organizations especially when it comes to lost revenue. While the pros and top colleges are expecting their budget deficits to cross over 100 million dollars, high schools are also taking a hit as well. That includes Northland schools, who have been told by the Minnesota State High School League that they need to foot the bill caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

This past summer, the MSHSL announced that due to the expected lack of fans that will be attending this year’s state tournaments, they will have a $5 million budget shortfall, which is now being turned over to its member schools.

“The state high school league, like a restaurant, where do they make their money? From butts in the seats. When they make their money at state tournaments and there haven’t been state tournaments for a year. We’ll see what happens this school year. The revenue has been really down to zero for the state high school league,” Duluth Denfeld athletic director Tom Pearson said.

This has led to an increase in league fees upwards of 400% for some schools.

“It was kind of a sticker shock right off the bat when you see something like that. But the Minnesota State High School League, they’re in a tough spot,” said Cloquet athletic director Paul Riess.

Here’s a breakdown of the what the fees look like. There’s the annual membership fee of $160 for each school. Then for each sponsored sports, schools have to pay $160, which was increased from 110 back in February. Then due to the MSHSL’s budget shortfall, each school has two make two payments to make up for the deficit. That amount is based on enrollment. So Cloquet has to pay two payments for a total of $9000. Denfeld will be paying the same amount as well. Duluth East is taking a heavy hit as their surcharge was $11,000.

“The impact on budgets, whether it’s your activities budget or your school district’s general fund, are big. Everyone’s hurting for money,” Pearson said.

The increase in fees also comes as schools are limited to how many fans they can allow at games.

“Without knowing what the seasons are going to look like, we’re not selling season passes to people. Swimming meets, we don’t have any fans coming in so there’s lost revenue there. If football comes back and they say you can only have 250 people in the stands, that’s going to be a big deal on that gate box when you’re used to getting 800 to 1,000 coming through that gate. It’s going to make a difference,” said Riess.

And with winter sports right around the corner, athletic directors are hoping the MSHSL can get creative with their budget to help offset some of their expenses.

“My simple suggestion would be eliminating some of the consolation rounds at the state tournament. State tournaments cost money. Again, that’s just my opinion. I don’t know what the state high school league is going to do. But they’re sharpening their pencils, trying to figure out what they can do, besides assessing the member schools ,which they’ve already done,” Pearson said.

And AD’s are glad their respective communities have been supporting their schools during these tough times.

“Hopefully they can rally around us and they understand. Everybody is just doing the best they can to give the kids an experience that they can have and hopefully it’s going to be a positive experience for them,” said Riess.

Categories: Friday Night Frenzy, High School, Sports