BLOOMINGTON, Ill. — A glimmer of hope exists for the Class of 2021 that high school sports in Illinois will be played before graduation.
Which sports and for how long remains unclear, but the Illinois High School Association took a small step toward a return to play plan during Wednesday’s virtual Board of Directors meeting.
The IHSA will begin allowing contact days for teams participating in out-of-season sports as soon as they are allowable per Illinois Department of Public Health mitigations and local school guidance. For low-risk sports, that could be as early as this weekend.
For medium- and high-risk sports, further changes to the IDPH mitigations will be required for future games to be played. While the IHSA awaits that, it tabled any discussion on sports schedule changes. Instead, it added a January 27 meeting date to its calendar and implored its staff to create viable scheduling options by that meeting.
“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,” the board said in a released statement. “Per (Illinois Gov. J.B. 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. 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.”
A limited number of fall sports were played with a modified postseason. However, no high school sports in Illinois have been played since November 20.
“We remain collaborative in our efforts with IDPH and the Governor’s office,” IHSA executive director Craig 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.”