ROCKFORD, ILL. (WTVO/WQRF) –High School basketball teams are celebrating . The IHSA says it will allow the basketball season to go on as scheduled. Practices will begin November 16. Games can begin November 30th.
It was a bold step by the IHSA, but the Board of Directors agreed Wednesday that a basketball season can be pulled off and pulled off safely. They point to how well many of the fall sports seasons have gone in tennis, golf, swimming and cross country, and how well contact days for other sports like football have gone.
“You know we really didn’t have any indications and I don’t know that anybody could point to circumstances where that worked poorly or cases where spiking is a result of that activity,” said IHSA Executive Director Craig Anderson in a video conference with reporters Wednesday.
The decision to go ahead with basketball runs contrary to what Governor Pritzker and what the Illinois Department of Public Health recommend. They say with COVID cases rising the basketball season should be put on hold. The Governor sent out a warning message to the IHSA and its member schools. He said quote, “We’ve told school districts what the rules are and I think they all know.” “They would probably be taking on legal liability if they went ahead and moved beyond what the state has set as the mitigation standard.”
Anderson was asked about the risk of lawsuits the IHSA might potentially face.
“You know at some point, I think over the next month or whatever time frame we’ll figure out if this is a legal issue for us as an association or if it is for our schools and then we’ll have to pivot as we’ve been pivoting a number of times throughout this school year. This is a step forward to really say that as an association we think we can do it safely, and we want it for our students.”
Anderson says the IHSA in making its decision also considered the mental health of the student-athletes.
“We get reports and I’ve heard reports of kids suffering and suicide and those kind of things, so all of this wraps up into some deep concern about re-engaging kids…and I can’t tell you the number of emails I had gotten from parents throughout the fall and continuing where it is a concern.”
Basketball players will likely have to wear masks while competing and social distance while on the bench. Games will be played within conferences and regions to limit travel. Whether or not any spectators will be allowed at games has yet to be announced. Anderson also said it’s too soon to think about what a state tournament format might look like or if there will be a state tournament.
All of the other winter sports will also proceed as scheduled with one exception. Wrestling now shifts to a modified summer sport. It will begin in April and run through June.