DANVILLE — For the first time in more than six decades, the Danville High football team will not play a game during the fall season.
Instead, the Vikings and the rest of the football playing schools in the Illinois High School Association will have a spring season, beginning with the first day of practice on Feb. 15, 2021 and the season is scheduled to end of Saturday, May 1, 2021.
That change is part of a new plan approved by the IHSA Board of Directors during a special meeting on Wednesday dealing the upcoming school year and the novel coronavius.
“I’m just thankful that we have a plan in place for a season,’’ said Danville coach Marcus Forrest.
That sentiment was echoed by Bismarck-Henning/Rossville-Alvin coach Mark Dodd.
“Honestly, the real fear before today’s announcement was a cancelled season,’’ Dodd said. “Football isn’t a sport that you just get people together and play. There is a great deal of commitment and to lose it would have been devastating to a lot of kids.’’
As far as the particulars of the IHSA plan some of those still need to be ironed out by the sport’s advisory committee but the IHSA had some basic concepts.
According to Craig Anderson, the Executive Director of the IHSA, the season will probably have only six or seven games with a two-week regional tournament.
“As of right now, we don’t know if we will be able to host state tournaments in any sport,’’ said Anderson referring to the guidelines established earlier Wednesday by Gov. JB Pritzker.
Pritzker ranked all sports from high school to youth in three categories of risk on the likelihood that participation in the sport increases coronavirus transmission.
Football, hockey and wrestling are the IHSA sports in the higher risk level; basketball, 7-on-7 football, soccer and volleyball are in the medium risk level; while baseball, bass fishing, bowling, cross country, golf, softball, tennis along with track and field are in the lower risk level.
No competition is currently allowed in the higher and medium risk levels, while limited competition is available for the lower risk level.
“This virus remains dangerous to kids, and parents, and grandparents, and teachers, and coaches, and for right now, this is the best thing that we can do for the health and safety of our families under the current circumstances,” Pritzker said.
Anderson said on Wednesday that the IHSA, who has been trying to work with the Illinois Department of Health, does not have all the details on what it will take for the state to allow competition in the other levels.
And even in the lower risk level sports, there are still guidelines for competition like no more than three teams in a meet, no more than 50 individuals in a defined space and no relay events.
“I completely expected the IHSA to move all fall sports to the spring,’’ said Danville athletics director Mark Bacys. “I think it’s a good thing that we will have some sports this fall and I think the IHSA plan is good for all sports to have their seasons.’’
The shortest of those seasons is the newly developed summer season for baseball, softball, boys and girls track, girls soccer and boys tennis. Those sports, who had their 2020 seasons cancelled completely, will have only six weeks of competition in 2021.
“That’s unfortunate for those athletes,’’ said Salt Fork boys track coach Phil Suprenant. “I would have liked to seen us get a few more weeks.’’
Suprenant also wonders if athletes will want to compete in a sport that goes until June 26, 2021, well after a school’s graduation date.
“After this past year, we will take any kind of a season,’’ he said.
The biggest hurdles yet to be cleared are the schedules.
“We have our Big 12 Conference meeting next week and I think you will see 11 athletic directors there with multiple calendars. It will probably look like an NFL Draft war room,’’ Bacys said.
But, at least, there is a plan to continue athletics.