BLOOMINGTON — IHSA member schools have spent the past two weeks trying to determine its best course of action for the 2020-21 high school basketball season.
Back in October over a span of three days, Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker and the Illinois Department of Public Health announced that basketball was moving from the medium risk category to high risk.
The IHSA decided to move forward, allowing schools to begin practices, which officially start on Monday.
Pritzker responded that basketball would be moved to the spring season. While Illinois State Board of Education Superintendent Dr. Carmen Ayala criticized the IHSA, saying “defying the state’s public health guidance opens up schools to liability and other ramifications that may negatively impact school communities.’’
On Wednesday, the IHSA Board of Directors held a virtual update session to review the recent developments ahead of a regularly scheduled meeting on Nov. 19.
As a result, the IHSA announced that they are formally inviting representatives from Gov. Pritzker’s office and the Illinois Department of Public Health to attend the IHSA meeting. The IHSA is also seeking the representation of the Illinois Principals Association, the Illinois Association of School Administrators, the Illinois State Board of Education and a coalition of nearly 200 school superintendents who recently contacted the Governor regarding school sports during the 2020-21 school year. Among the coalition of superintendents that recently contacted the Governor’s office included Bill Mulvaney from Armstrong-Potomac, Scott Watson of Bismarck-Henning/Rossville-Alvin, Robert Richardson of Hoopeston Area, Larry Maynard of Oakwood and Phil Cox from Salt Fork.
“The Board hopes to create a dialogue and build a more collaborative relationship with all the entities involved with developing sports policy in our state as everyone tries to navigate the myriad of issues caused by the pandemic,’’ said Craig Anderson, Executive Director of the IHSA, in an official IHSA release. “The Board’s decision to move forward with the IHSA basketball season was not meant to be adversarial. It was rooted in a desire to receive more direct communication and data from our state partners. They hope all the groups will see the mutual benefit of increased discourse and be represented at the meeting on November 19.’’
The safety guidelines that the IHSA enacted back in October for basketball were put together by Sports Medicine Advisory Committee.
They included: that masks will be worn throughout, even for competing players and officials. There is also a limit of 50 people inside the gymnasium — which basically mans that no fans will be in attendance after the players, coaches, officials and bench workers are accounted for and that team benches would be spread out to maintain good social distancing.
On Wednesday, the IHSA revealed that among the 546 schools who have responded to a survey that nearly 300 schools do not plan to start basketball on Monday and another 212 schools remain unsure of their status. Schlarman Academy, as members of the Catholic Diocese of Peoria, is one of the programs not planning to start basketball.
“The Board recognizes the difficult decisions they have placed on member schools regarding basketball,’’ Anderson said. “With a limited number of schools set to begin their season on November 16, they believe it is prudent to adhere to IDPH guidance as they work with state officials to gain greater clarity on the metrics and mitigations required to conduct certain high school sports throughout the remainder of the 2020-21 school year.’’
Additionally, the Board announced on Wednesday that schools planning to start basketball practice on Monday should adhere to the Level 1 mitigations from the IDPH All Sports Policy until at least Nov. 19. That means that schools can practice individual drill work and conditioning, but there is to be no live contact.
The IHSA Board cited rising COVID-19 cases in the state for this recommendation and the IHSA is hoping to provide more direction on practice and games, which as of right now can start on Nov. 30, following their meeting on Nov. 19.