IHSA defies Gov. Pritzker, plans to start basketball season on time

Sports

WCIA — The IHSA is going against Gov. Pritzker and the Illinois Department of Public Health, planning to start its boys’ and girls’ basketball season on time. This comes in direct contradiction of a Tuesday announcement from the Governor and IDPH, putting the season “on hold” saying: “Just like with fall sports, nothing is canceled but some tournament play is being put on hold until we’re through the thick of this pandemic.”

All teams will have to follow the IHSA Sports Medicine Advisory Committee guidelines and recommendations. Basketball practices will be allowed to start Nov. 16, with the first games scheduled for Nov. 30, within an Illinois COIVD Region or a conference. Masks must be worn at all times by players, coaches and referees. A maximum of 31 games can be played, and it will be up to each school district whether to allow their teams to play or not.

“After diligent discussion, the Board has made the decision today to follow the recommendation of the IHSA SMAC as it relates to basketball,” the IHSA Board of Directors released in a statement. “The Board remains considerate of rising COVID-19 cases in Illinois and understand the importance of adhering to safety guidelines for the good of all citizens. However, the Board has not been presented any causal evidence that rising COVID-19 cases make basketball more dangerous to play by the IDPH or any other health organization nationally or internationally. On the contrary, the IHSA has been looking to bordering states who have sponsored both medium risk and high risk sports in the fall that have noted a low incident rate of COVID-19 spread. Instead, we will require all IHSA basketball teams to adhere to those SMAC mitigations, and allow local school officials to make decisions related to participation.”

Gov. Pritzker was asked several questions about the move during his daily COVID-19 press conference on Wednesday, throwing it back on the school districts to follow his guidelines.

“We’ve told school districts what the rules are and I think they all know,” Pritzker said. “So IHSA may have their views but school districts know what the rules are. It’s unfortunate but they would be probably be taking on legal liability. What I would suggest is that if there’s a difference of opinion, I prefer to err on the side of health and safety.”

The IHSA Board cited several challenges with postponing the season, including mental health issues, scheduling issues, athletes leaving the state to play elsewhere.

“Students can be better protected in the high school setting and the Board remains steadfast that playing under IHSA rules and SMAC mitigation is the safest way to conduct athletics at this juncture,” they said in a statement.

Meanwhile the Board also voted to officially move wrestling from the winter season to the summer, with its season running April 19 to June 26, 2021. The Board approved the IHSA’s winter sport guidance for all low risk sports, which includes boys’ swimming and diving, cheerleading, dance, boys’ & girls’ bowling and girls’ gymnastics. These sports will be conducted from November 16 to Feb. 13, 2021.

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