With the Illinois High School Association (IHSA) Board of Directors announcing their intended plans and dates for the 2020-21 school sports season on July 29, many changes are being made state wide to this year’s sports seasons.
The biggest change to the season is that all fall contact sports are effectively moved and slated to begin in the spring. This includes football, boys and girls soccer, and volleyball. At this time, non-contact sports such as girl’s and boy’s golf, tennis, cross country and swimming and diving will continue to take place during the fall.
The IHSA’s plans come on the heals of Governor Pritzker’s announcement that fall sports will begin with competition limited to conference opponents and other schools in the same general geographical area, thus condensing each sport’s season.
At this time, no decisions have been made regarding any State Series tournament games but the IHSA’s board is optimistic of the plan they have put in place.
“Throughout the spring and summer it’s been my intent working very closely with Steve Endsley at the IESA, as we pursued both the governor’s office and the Illinois Department of Public Health in conjunction with the Illinois State Board of Education, to try and gain information regarding our summer activities leading all the way up to this time,” said IHSA Executive Director, Craig Anderson, during a press conference.
“We believe the plan we presented does and will fall in line and meet IDPH approval.”
When asked if he considered what other states were doing with regards to their own plans for the upcoming seasons, Anderson said he was aware that many states were going to move forward with their seasons in the fall as planned.
“For the last couple of months, we’ve had Zoom meetings with Midwest State Executive Directors and more recently at a national level and compared notes and I definitely was aware of what is going on around us,” he said.
“I shared a lot of those results with Deputy Governor Ruiz, and Illinois State Board of Education that in some ways advocate that our students in Illinois were being held up from what is being permitted in other states. I don’t have a good answer for why things are trending a certain way in one state verses our state but I am definitely aware that in the states around us, while their timelines are now starting to be adjusted a little bit, the plan is generally for them to go forward with all of their fall sports in the fall time schedule. I think we’ve recognized in our state, at least the Department of Public Health has, that those are risky sports and the higher risk sports are sports that can end up with higher positivity rates and can result in shut downs. Here in Illinois, we have leaned on the guidance of the governor’s office and the IDPH and that’s how our board ended up where we are at with our new plan.”
Anderson went on to say that the probability of basketball, which has been officially considered a medium-risk sport, beginning as scheduled on November 16 is relatively unknown at this time.
“The dates we’ve created here are really our first attempt at trying to project or predict what possibly could happen for us in getting those medium to higher risk sports some opportunities for competition. If it remains an unknown, we simply have to see how this progresses. I think as time goes by, I think the general consensus is that we are much closer to a vaccine. Whether or not we have a vaccine in November, or whatever timeline we are forced into, hopefully we are in a position to begin.”
With basketball being considered a medium risk sports as of today, what is the probablity of basketball starting on time? And would it be only conference football games that would be played?
“The dates we’ve created here are really our first attempt at trying to project or predict what possibly could happen for us in getting those medium to higher risk sports some opportunities for competition. If it remains an unknown, we simply have to see how this progresses. I think as time goes by, we are much closer to a vaccine. Whether or not we have a vaccine in November, or whatever timeline we are forced into, hopefully we are in a position to begin.”
Anderson also touched on how the limited season would effect scholarship opportunities for senior athletes who will be graduating and moving on to college after the school year is out.
“That is probably more reflective of the college coaches. We know that even over the summer, some college coaches were unable to be out recruiting. It will be decided by the NCAA whether or not there are timelines during this school year that college coaches will be permitted to travel and watch our student athletes play. So, I think in all of this, as it relates to scholarships, it’s kind of a wait and see approach by both the high school and collegiate level will determine on a later time frame.”
At this time, more details regarding the sport season and practice limitations will be released to the IHSA schools following IDPH approval of the plan.