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IHSA delays winter sports decision again, will meet Dec. 2

The IHSA board said Thursday that winter sports are on hold and that it will meet again to discuss the situation on Dec. 2

Bloom’s Christian Shumate (24) dunks on an alley-oop pass last season.
Bloom’s Christian Shumate (24) dunks on an alley-oop pass last season.
Allen Cunningham/For the Sun-Times

The Illinois High School Association has kicked the can down the road again.

The organization’s board didn’t take any meaningful action at its meeting Thursday. Instead, it confirmed the news released earlier this week that winter sports are on hold and said it would meet again Dec. 2 to discuss where things stand.

“All IHSA sports and activities will cease by Nov. 20 for what we hope is a short-term pause,” IHSA executive director Craig Anderson said. “Given the rising COVID-19 cases in our state and region, we support the governor’s mitigations and believe it is imperative for everyone in the state to do their part in following them so that we can return to high school sports participation as soon as possible.”

In the meantime, all conditioning and open gyms are on pause and only outdoor workouts in groups of 10 or fewer are allowed.

“Taking into account the current state mitigations, the board believes that early to mid-December will be the most reasonable target to review the status of winter IHSA sports and activities,” Anderson said. “The board is sensitive to the scheduling difficulties these delays create for athletic directors and coaches. However, our experiences this summer and fall lead us to believe that setting arbitrary start dates hinders the process even more. We realize it may seem redundant, but we have to preach patience as we await more data and direction from the state. Despite the obstacles this unprecedented school year has presented, the board’s vision to provide participation opportunities in all IHSA sports has not wavered.”

Gov. J.B. Pritzker and the Illinois Department of Public Health put basketball and other high- and medium-risk winter sports on hold in late October and said they wouldn’t be played until spring.

“We aren’t saying these sports won’t be played,” Pritzker said in October. “We are delaying the play of these sports. We are saying do training, do conditioning. Even the high-risk sports, there are things they can do. It’s not like we are shutting the sports down. But these are all being moved into the spring with the hope that we will be seeing vaccines and treatments that will be effective.”

The IHSA attempted to plow forward and play basketball as scheduled, but insurance companies wouldn’t insure the schools, forcing superintendents and school boards to opt out of the IHSA’s season.

There is growing frustration among students and coaches in numerous sports over the IHSA’s inability to draw up a new sports calendar in which all the sports could play much shorter seasons starting in February or later.

Pritzker has been consistent in his stance for months. He isn’t going to allow medium- and high-risk sports to be played until COVID-19’s threat has dramatically decreased, so it’s unclear why the IHSA expects anything to change in the next two weeks or even in the next two months.

The IHSA board also clarified that “coaches cannot organize non-school participation in any fashion.”

That appears to be an attempt to stop high school coaches from assembling their teams to compete as club teams in events being held in other states.

That is already a well-known IHSA rule, and the coaches who considered the move were aware that they would have to resign from their high school positions to carry those plans out.