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2015 Minnesota state football championships could move to Fargodome

The Fargodome in North Dakota is being mentioned as a potential site for the 2015 Prep Bowl, Minnesota’s annual two days of high school football championships. (Forum file photo)

FARGO – The Fargodome in North Dakota is being mentioned as a potential site for the 2015 Prep Bowl, Minnesota’s annual two days of high school football championships.

Fargodome general manager Rob Sobolik is all ears.

“We would definitely be interested,” Sobolik said Thursday. “We have a great relationship with a lot of Minnesota schools. In the past, we’ve hosted some state quarterfinal games.”

He said he hasn’t had any conversations with Minnesota State High School League officials about 2015, “but we’d love to host the Minnesota schools.”

The Minnesota State High School League board of directors pitched the idea Thursday, when it approved TCF Bank Stadium – home of the University of Minnesota Gophers – as the site for the 2014 Prep Bowl on Nov. 21-22, a week earlier than its usual Thanksgiving weekend.

This fall’s Prep Bowl will be at the Metrodome for the last time. The Metrodome, which has hosted all 31 Prep Bowls dating back to 1982, will be demolished and replaced by a new stadium for the Minnesota Vikings.

That’s why the 2014 Prep Bowl will be played outdoors at TCF Bank Stadium. The problem with 2015 is the Minnesota Gophers host Wisconsin on Nov. 28, and the Prep Bowl is usually held the day after Thanksgiving. Moving the high school season up a week wouldn’t help because the Gophers host Illinois on Nov. 21.

Adding to the problem is that the Vikings will play home games at TCF in 2015.

So, what are the chances of the 2015 Prep Bowl coming to the Fargodome?

“I’d say it’s relatively slim,” said MSHSL Associate Director Kevin Merkle. “We haven’t even gone so far as to contact anyone to check and see if there’s any chance of it happening or availability. It’s one of four or five possible solutions we’ve discussed.”

Two options discussed at Thursday’s MSHSL board meeting for 2015 were:

• Having the Prep Bowl two weeks before Thanksgiving, starting the season a week earlier and cutting the playoffs to four teams in each section.

• Bringing the Prep Bowl to the Fargodome or the Alerus Center in Grand Forks.

“We’ve made a tentative agreement with the University of Minnesota to play the games at TCF Bank Stadium,” Merkle said. “The issue is we’d have to play Nov. 14 and 15, and that shortens our season, which creates shortened playoffs.”

The X-factor for the Fargodome would be North Dakota State University football. In the FCS playoffs, the top eight seeds get byes during Thanksgiving weekend, but there’s no guarantee about when the Bison would play if they qualify.

“There’s your wild card,” Sobolik said. “Obviously, with NDSU football and NDSU athletics in general and the city of Fargo, there’s a great partnership there. All entities have helped each other grow. With our contract with NDSU, they have priority. It would have to be a conversation that happens with the (MSHSL) on what dates they were looking at.”

Coaches not complaining

The coach of last season’s Class 1A state champion Mahnomen doesn’t mind moving the season up a week or playing for a state championship in a different state.

“Moving the season up a week really only affects the coaches’ golf games,” Mahnomen coach John Clark Jr. said. “The one thing I wouldn’t like is it takes away from the kids’ summer vacations. As for where the Prep Bowl is held, if you’re playing for the state championship, I don’t think you have much to complain about.”

Barnesville football coach Bryan Strand is also ready for a change.

“We had basketball kids playing football a week or two into the season last season,” Strand said. “Football should be earlier because you’re getting penalized in your winter sport for your fall sport going long.

“I wouldn’t care if they played the thing at (the University of Northern Iowa),” he said. “You hate to see the weather make a decision on who the better team is. I have a hard time believing they’ll allow a state championship to be played in a different state, though.”

-Chris Murphy