Craig Anderson, executive director of the Illinois High School Association, went into today’s meeting with the IHSA Board of Directors with five different plans for dealing with the novel coronavirus and the upcoming 2020-21 school year.
But, before the IHSA Board could announce their decision, Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker announced new guidelines for youth and recreational sports during a news conference in Chicago on Wednesday. He classified sports into three tiers based on the likelihood that participation in those sports increases coronavirus transmission.
Anderson is hopeful that the plan selected by the IHSA Board, and sent to the Illinois Department of Health for final approval, will meet the new guidelines.
For the 2020-21 school year in Illinois, traditional fall sports — football, volleyball and boys soccer will move move into a spring season that starts on Feb. 15 and is scheduled to end of May 1.
Other fall sports, boys and girls golf, boys and girls cross country along with girls tennis and girls swimming and diving, will remain in the fall season that will now run from Aug. 10 until Oct. 17.
“This plan, like nearly every aspect of our current lives, remain fluid,’’ said Anderson. “Changes may come, and if they do, we will be agile while putting safety and students first. It was important that we provide a framework today for our student-athletes, coaches, administrators and officials to begin preparing for the 2020-21 school year.’’
Traditional spring sports — baseball, softball, girls soccer, boys and girls track and field, along with boys tennis — will have it’s season shortened and move into a newly created summer season that will run from May 3, 2021 to June 26, 2021.
“I applaud our Board of Directors for choosing a model that allows every student-athlete the opportunity for a modified season,’’ Anderson said.
According to the guidelines announced by Pritzker on Wednesday, boys and girls golf along with girls tennis are in the lower risk level, which means that participants can compete in intra-league, intra-conference matches or matches within their emergency medical system regions.
But right now, boys and girls cross country along with girls swimming, is at medium risk level (no competition allowed) but it would classified as lower risk with certain modifications like limiting teams in cross country and single lane competition — no relays — in swimming.
“The Board believes this plan offers the most realistic chance for student-athletes to participate in interscholastic sports while balancing the challenges of a new academic setting and IDPH Guidelines,’’ said IHSA Board President Tim McConnell, who is the principal at Erie High School.
On a related note, the Indiana High School Athletic Association announced on Twitter Wednesday “high school fall sports are on track to proceed as planned.’’