BLOOMINGTON — The old adage that no news is good news doesn’t work for Wednesday’s IHSA Board of Directors virtual meeting.
High school sports remain in a holding pattern with a hope that low-risk sports such as boys and girls bowling, cheerleading, dance, girls gymnastics and boys swimming will be permitted to resume in certain regions of the state this Friday. Vermilion County, which is part of Region 6 in the state of Illinois, was not meeting the criteria necessary to move back into Tier-3 mitigations as of Tuesday.
And, the future for basketball, a high-risk sport, remains very questionable.
“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,’’ said Craig Anderson, the IHSA Executive Director in an official release. “Per Governor Pritzker, we have hope that low-risk sports may be permitted in certain regions of the state as early as this Friday. With that in mind, February seems like a realistic timeline to have sports resume statewide.’’
The Board did review several options for a sports schedule and they directed the IHSA staff to take feedback from the meeting, as well as any insight gained in the coming weeks to bring forward viable scheduling options for a special Board Meeting that is set for Jan. 27.
“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,’’ Anderson said. “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.”
One decision that the Board did make on Wednesday was to all all sports not operating under the official season calendar to conduct contact days as soon as they are allowable per the Illinois Department of Public Health mitigations and the local school guidance.
“The IHSA acknowledges the immense mental, emotional, and physical strain that a lack of contact with school programs is causing Illinois high school student-athletes,’’ Anderson said. “It is our intention that these contact days provide sport-specific training under the leadership of high school coaches. This is an effort to provide a viable sports option to high school athletes given the growing number of student-athletes option for higher risk opportunities with the state and across state lines.’’
The IHSA did successful conducted seasons in cross country, golf, girls swimming and girls tennis during the fall 2020 season, but all sports have been paused since Nov. 20, 2020.
“We remain collaborative in our efforts with IDPH and the governor’s office,’’ Anderson said. “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.’’
Football, boys soccer and volleyball are scheduled to begin practices on Feb. 15 for a spring sports season, while baseball, softball, boys and girls track, along with boys tennis, girls soccer and now wrestling will tentatively start their seasons on April 19.