John's Journal
2020 Seniors Get One Last Chance To Play Ball 7/27/2020
I did the math Monday afternoon to figure out exactly how many days had elapsed since the last time I attended a sporting event. I knew the key date was March 12, which was Day Two of the girls state basketball tournament. That also was the final day of that event as well as the final day of MSHSL competition during the 2019-20 school year, as Covid-19 wiped out spring activities.

Nineteen days in March. Thirty days in April, 30 more in May, another 30 in June and 27 days in July. The total: 136 days without sports. I did the math while sitting at CHS Field in downtown St. Paul on a spectacular summer day … watching high school athletes compete. Even though I'm on vacation this week, I had to go.

It wasn't an MSHSL-sponsored event, but that mattered very little. The St. Paul Saints, who are playing their American Association baseball games in Sioux Falls for the time being (thus making CHS available), worked with the Minnesota State High School Baseball Coaches Association to put together the Senior Salute as a way for 2020 seniors to get on a ballfield again. Twenty-four teams are entered, placed into pools with round-robin play going on now. The top teams will advance to elimination play, with a champion scheduled to be crowned Aug. 2.

"The idea that these kids are getting a chance to play on a great field, how can you go wrong on that? It’s very fun to be there," said Minnetonka High School coach Paul Twenge, who is among the coaches for a team with seniors from Minnetonka and East Ridge.

Players sign waivers stating that they understand the risks of Covid-19 and fans -- who buy tickets online in advance at -- have their temperatures checked upon entering CHS Field.

Monday’s schedule included three games at CHS. The first game, starting at 2 p.m., was between teams labeled as Southeast Conference and Tomahawk Conference; most teams in the Senior Salute have seniors from two or more teams.

Southeast Conference, which lost 10-4 Monday, has players from Spring Grove, Caledonia, Rushford-Peterson and Randolph. They went 0-3 in round-robin play and will not advance, but that was pretty meaningless.

“I think this is probably one of the coolest experiences I've ever had playing baseball,” said Carter Bratland of Spring Grove. “I mean, we went 0-3 but this is bigger than winning or losing. We got our season taken away from us and I think just getting to play one last time with these guys that had the same thing happen to them, it was a good thing to just get something over with, get some sort of closure to what happened in our season.”

Most of the players didn’t practice or even get together before their first game. Southeast Conference coach Chris Strinmoen (head coach at Spring Grove who was the school’s male athlete of the year in 1996), said the players from his town, Caledonia and Rushford-Peterson could have stopped in Randolph for drills on their way to St. Paul, but it was unnecessary.

“We’re not using any signs, either,” he said. “We told them, ‘Steal if you wanna steal, just go out there and play.’ ”

A team that includes seniors from St. Anthony Village and Litchfield (and one from Columbia Heights) does use signals from the bench, and most players knew those signals long before the Senior Salute began. That’s because St. Anthony Village coach Troy Urdahl is a 1996 Litchfield grad who played for coach Jeff Wollin, who still coaches there.

“Litchfield is running the same signs and systems as when I was there,” Urdahl said. “We’re able to run through the same signs; we even called a pickoff from the dugout and the Litchfield guys knew what it was. It worked, too. It’s the same timing play, the same system I was taught by Coach Wollin.”

Opponents at the Senior Salute don’t shake hands before or after games. High fives and fist bumps between teammates are not uncommon, however.

“They’re so used to being around each other, they still want to high five,” Strinmoen said. “It’s human nature, they kind of gravitate toward each other. We only have 12 players on the team, so guys are always playing. The dugout isn’t packed and there’s room to spread out.”

Music is played between innings, a stadium announcer recognizes each batter, and one concession stand is open at CHS. All Senior Salute games are streamed for a fee on

Spring Grove senior Chandler Bergrud was busy Monday, playing every position except catcher in the seven-inning game against the Tomahawk Conference team. After the final out, players on both teams tipped their caps toward the opponents. The Southeast Conference players posed for photos before leaving the field.

“It was a great experience with the boys,” Bergrud said. “We couldn't have asked for more beautiful days, it was a lot of fun getting back out on the field. And one of the nicest fields I've seen or played on, for sure.”

--Follow John on Twitter @MSHSLjohn, listen to "Preps Today with John Millea” wherever you get podcasts and hear him on Minnesota Public Radio.
The State Of The MSHSL In Uncertain Times 7/15/2020
If you've read or heard media reports about the MSHSL this week, you know things are not great. High school activities competitions have been shut down across our state (and the nation) since mid-March, when the girls state basketball tournament was stopped halfway through a four-day run due to the Covid-19 virus. The boys state basketball tournament was canceled, as were all spring sports and activities … not to mention all pro and college sports.

Now we're all wondering about fall sports, while the MSHSL also faces severe financial peril. The League's board of directors, 20 people representing all areas of Minnesota and all sponsored activities, met via Zoom on Tuesday and made some big decisions.

The fate of fall activities hinges largely on upcoming return-to-school decisions by Gov. Tim Walz and the Minnesota Departments of Health and Education, expected the last week of July. That decision will direct the path for schools as classes resume in a few weeks, with three possibilities: a full return to in-school attendance, continuation of remote learning (which began in the spring), or some combination of the two.

The board of directors voted to form a task force that will shape return-to-play scenarios for sports and activities, and another task force will look into the League's financial status.

Practices for fall sports are scheduled to begin Aug. 17. If no fall activities are held, the MSHSL projects a $466,000 budget deficit in the 2020-21 fiscal year. If winter activities are also cancelled, that would mean an estimated deficit of $3.2 million; hockey and basketball state tournaments are some of the MSHSL’s largest revenue producers; state tournaments that produce revenue help pay for activities that do not produce revenue.

The League also pays approximately $650,000 yearly for catastrophic insurance coverage on every student involved in MSHSL sports and activities.

It’s important to remember – and often overlooked -- that the 104-year-old MSHSL is not part of state government and receives no funding from the state of Minnesota. It is a voluntary, nonprofit association of schools.

Knowing that 75 to 80 percent of the league’s funding comes from state tournament ticket sales (which generally trend downward from year to year), a television contract and sponsorship revenue, the board is looking at a new funding formula which would have the League’s approximately 500 member schools contribute more than they currently do; when the MSHSL is in a position to maintain revenues above expenses at the end of each fiscal year, the overage would be returned to the schools.

Under the current funding model, the League cannot be certain of revenue. Bad weather means fewer tickets sold for outdoor state tournament events and money from corporate sponsorship can ebb and flow (or completely disappear), meaning lots of unknowns year to year. The MSHSL receives no ticket revenue or other financing from regular-season or section tournaments.

"This is not a knee-jerk reaction to the pandemic," board treasurer and Roseau superintendent Tom Jerome said. "The pandemic is something I think is forcing this to come out of the shadows and more and more into the light."

In some states, high school state tournaments are held in small-college or high school venues. We are fortunate in Minnesota that our athletes, students and fans create memories in venues that include U.S. Bank Stadium, Xcel Energy Center, Target Center, Target Field and the University of Minnesota. Under the legislation for U.S. Bank Stadium, the MSHSL uses the stadium at no cost for state soccer and football tournaments; the cost at the other facilities trends upward, and the financial goals of the League include maintaining the ability to afford using those world-class venues rather than move tournaments to smaller sites in the Twin Cities or elsewhere in the state.

The MSHSL staff consists of 21 people who administer 43 sports and activities. The staff has gotten smaller recently; the last four employees to leave have not been replaced, including two who were laid off earlier this month. More layoffs are possible.

League activities include the long list of traditional sports with which everyone is familiar, as well as activities like speech, debate, one-act play, band and choir, and adapted sports such as bowling, floor hockey, soccer and softball for students with cognitive and physical impairments. MSHSL activities annually involve more than 300,000 students, 22,000 coaches, and nearly 10,000 officials and judges. According to a recent national survey of 51 state high school athletic/activity associations (from 50 states and the District of Columbia), Minnesota ranks 10th in the nation in the total number of student athletes.

As former board president Scott McCready, athletic director, teacher and coach at St. Charles High School, wrote in a Tweet on Tuesday: “Schools ARE the MSHSL and the MSHSL IS its member schools. The schools should play a major role in funding the MSHSL. Every program is for the benefit of the schools.”

--I'm happy to answer any questions you may have. My email address is

--Follow John on Twitter @MSHSLjohn, listen to "Preps Today with John Millea” wherever you get podcasts and hear him on Minnesota Public Radio.

The Secret’s Out: Cosgriff Retires After 21 Years At Hopkins7/9/2020
I'm on vacation this week, but sometimes news is more important than the calendar…

Had Covid-19 not derailed the girls state basketball tournament, Hopkins and Farmington would have met in the Class 4A state championship game at Williams Arena on March 14. The Hopkins Royals were 30-0 at that time and had won 62 games in a row, but the tournament was halted before the 4A title game.

Much earlier in the season – Dec. 6 to be precise – Hopkins played at Farmington in the Royals' sixth game of 2019-20. There was a big crowd on hand in the spacious Farmington gym, with Connecticut-bound Hopkins senior Paige Bueckers the main draw. Hopkins won 77-52, one of only two losses for the Farmington Tigers during the regular season.

While the junior varsity game was being played, I stood with Hopkins coach Brian Cosgriff in a corridor leading to the locker rooms. As we chatted, he said out of the blue: "This is my last season." I wasn’t exactly sure what he had said. “I’m retiring after the season,” he reiterated. He wasn’t making this announcement public and trusted me to keep that knowledge to myself. And of course, whether it’s a decades-long coach or a rookie coach, I would never break a promise. This was Brian’s news to share when he felt the time was right.

That time arrived today when Cosgriff’s retirement from coaching became official. He also has retired as a physical education teacher at Alice Smith Elementary School in Hopkins, a position he has held for 30 years and where the kids knew him as Mr. C.

Cosgriff was an assistant coach with the Hopkins boys basketball program for nine years before becoming the girls head coach in 1999. He retires with an astounding record of 569-67. His teams have been to 14 state tournaments, have played in 12 state championship games and won seven championships.

The numbers are one story and the person is another story. Brian always did what was best for his team and his players, he always respected the game, and he was always grateful for the opportunities he had. He also was grateful to the media for covering his team. I have lost count of how many Hopkins games and practices I have attended over the decades, but I do remember hearing Brian say “Hey, thanks for being here” on every occasion.

He’s a class act.

--Follow John on Twitter @MSHSLjohn, listen to "Preps Today with John Millea” wherever you get podcasts and hear him on Minnesota Public Radio.

Moorhead Spuds Are MSHSL Nickname Challenge Champions7/1/2020
In an epic state championship match in the MSHSL Nickname Challenge, the Moorhead Spuds have won by a whisker over the Blooming Prairie Awesome Blossoms.

With 6,782 votes cast in the title contest, the results were ...

Spuds 50.4%
Awesome Blossoms 49.6%

The total number of votes cast in the 64-nickname tournament was 87,074.

Congrats to all schools and voters!
Voting Is Open: Awesome Blossoms vs. Spuds6/29/2020
Voting is now underway in the state championship match of the MSHSL Nickname Challenge!

Who will claim the title in this 64-nickname tournament, the Moorhead Spuds or the Blooming Prairie Awesome Blossoms?

The voting period is 48 hours, ending at 11 a.m. Wednesday.

Prior to the state championship, a total of 80,202 votes had been cast in the contest that began on May 18.

Voting is done on Twitter by following @MSHSLjohn