IHSA sports still on pause, will look to set schedules for rest of year in special Jan. 27 meeting

Local Sports

WCIA — The IHSA Board of Directors did not set sports schedules for the remainder of the year during its regularly scheduled meeting on Wednesday, instead keeping everything on pause due to COVID-19.

“We realize there is a desire for finality on a sports schedule for 2020-21, however, we did not believe it would be prudent to lock ourselves into a schedule at a time when IHSA schools are unable to conduct any sports,” the IHSA Board of Directors released in a statement. “Per Governor Pritzker, we have hope that low-risk sports may be permitted in certain regions of the state as early as this Friday (January 15). With that in mind, February seems like a realistic timeline to have sports resume statewide. We expect that the events of the next two weeks will go a long way toward informing our opinion on which scheduling option we decide to proceed with. We recognize that if no sports have resumed by February, season lengths could be impacted in certain sports, and that we may need to take a longer look at the likelihood of true seasons being conducted in high-risk sports this year. Our overall goal remains unchanged, as we hope to conduct all IHSA sports during the remainder of the school year calendar. Please know that we see and read many of the comments and messages from student-athletes, coaches, and parents, and that we are doing everything we can to try and bring IHSA sports back within the current parameters we are working in.”

The board did formally approve contact days for all sports not currently in season, but only once the IDPH lifts mitigations. School guidance must also be followed, allowing districts to choose whether to participate in voluntary contact days. Those contact days do not include basketball though, since it’s in the high risk category. Low-risk sports, including boys’ swimming and diving, boys’ and girls’ bowling, cheerleading, dance and girls’ gymnastics, can begin practicing and their seasons as well, with the season calendar established by the IHSA later this month, most likely at that Jan. 27 meeting.

All sports have been on pause in the state since Nov. 20, after golf, cross country, girls’ tennis and girls’ swimming and diving competed in the fall. Winter sports such as basketball, were supposed to start playing games on Nov. 30 with the season running through Feb. 13, but that never happened. Spring sports, including football, girls’ volleyball and and boys’ soccer was supposed to start the first week of March, running through May 1.

Last week, the IHSA and IESA met with members of the IDPH including Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike, Deputy Governor Jesse Ruiz, and IDPH Chief of Staff Justin DeWitt, to discuss the return of sports in the state. IHSA Executive Director Craig Anderson, members of the IHSA staff and IESA staff members were looking to understand any preliminary insight the IDPH had into the return of sports. The IHSA also asked IDPH leadership to review the risk levels of all remaining sports, with consideration for lowering some sports from their current risk levels.

“We remain collaborative in our efforts with IDPH and the Governor’s office,” IHSA executive director Craig Anderson said in a statement. “We are trying to do our part to fight the pandemic, while simultaneously seeking safe participation opportunities for our student-athletes. We understand the real mental toll this pause in athletics is having on Illinois high school student-athletes. We believe that school-based athletic participation is better regulated, making it the safest participation option for our students, and more data continues to emerge supporting that stance. We will continue to share that information with state leadership in hopes that we can work together to provide participation opportunities for young people in our state.”

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