IHSA getting out of return-to-play business, will let other state agencies take the lead
The Illinois High School Association said it will leave return-to-play guidelines up to the Illinois Department of Public Health, the state board of education and the governor.
The timing is impossible to ignore.
On Monday, St. Louis-area attorney Thomas DeVore filed a preliminary injunction against the Illinois High School Association and the Hillsboro School District.
The move claims the IHSA’s return-to-play plan, which involves masks and social distancing, will cause ‘‘immediate and irreparable harm’’ to the rights of student-athletes. It also alleges the rules are ‘‘the illegal product of collusion between state agencies, [IHSA executive director Craig] Anderson and the IHSA.’’
The IHSA released a statement Tuesday that said it will ‘‘defer to the Illinois Department of Public Health, Illinois State Board of Education and the Governor’s Office on all of its Return To Play Guidelines moving forward.’’
This should remove the IHSA as a target of future legal action over the reopening of high school athletics. It likely won’t change any outcomes, however. While the varying groups might have disagreed on some details, the IHSA was always unlikely to carry on with anything that the state board of education and Gov. J.B. Pritzker weren’t on board with.
‘‘We still believe there is a path to conducting high school athletics in the fall, like the majority of states surrounding Illinois plan to do,’’ Anderson said in the IHSA statement. ‘‘To make that happen, it’s important that we allow IDPH, ISBE and the Governor’s Office to take the lead on ensuring the safest and most consistent protocols.’’
Up to this point, the IHSA had developed the guidelines and waited for the IDPH to approve them. Teams are conducting limited workouts during Phase 4 of Illinois’ reopening guidelines.
‘‘There is an unprecedented level of planning for this school year due to COVID-19, and we have come to understand that there needs to be a greater consistency between the guidelines for returning to learn and returning to interscholastic athletics,’’ Anderson said in the statement. ‘‘Some of the recommendations by [the IHSA] and directives from IDPH have come into direct conflict with each other, especially as it relates to the use of masks by student-athletes. As a result, we feel it is important to let IDPH and ISBE provide a consistent direction for our membership moving forward. We will wait on direction from these organizations for further guidance on Return to Play plans for the 2020-21 school year.’’