IHSA, Gov. Pritzker at odds over winter sports

Athletic association intends to start basketball on Nov. 16

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By James Kay

Sports Editor

The Illinois High School Association and Gov. J.B. Pritzker have different ideas about the fate of prep sports this winter.

Pritzker announced on Oct. 27 the Illinois Department of Public Health upgraded its guidelines to include basketball as a "higher risk" sport after it had been categorized as a "medium-risk" sport for months. He went on to say basketball was not "canceled" but just "put on hold." 

The IHSA, which was set to hold a special meeting the day after to discuss the different possibilities of high school sports this winter, alleges it was not aware of the governor and IDPH's announcement until 15 minutes before Pritzker's news conference. 

"About 15 minutes prior to Governor Pritzker's press conference today, we were alerted that the Illinois Department of Public Health has elevated the sport of basketball from a medium-risk level to a high-risk level," IHSA executive director Craig Anderson said in a statement shortly after Pritzker's news conference. 

''We remain considerate of the recent rise in positive COVID-19 cases in our state. However, in our meeting with IDPH on [Oct. 23], we felt that we presented multiple options that would allow for basketball to be conducted safely by IHSA schools this winter, many of which are being utilized in neighboring states who plan to play high school basketball.''

On Oct. 28, the IHSA defied Pritzker's and the IDPH's orders and released a statement that it will move forward with basketball this winter. Anderson said practices and games can start Nov. 16 and Nov. 30 respectively. Michael O'Brien of the Chicago Sun-Times also reported that Anderson stated the IHSA didn't discuss the legal ramifications of its decision.

Pritzker announced on Oct. 29 higher-risk sports would be pushed to next spring or summer, giving a timetable for when sports like football and basketball could return to play. This was a response to criticism that the state was leaving athletic departments and their teams hanging with an indefinite postponement. 

Meanwhile, the decision to follow Pritzker's orders or the IHSA's ruling is, at the moment, in the hands of local school officials. The question people are raising is what happens if one school decides to move forward with basketball on Nov. 16 and a school within the conference chooses to wait until the spring to start its season. 

While it is expected athletic directors in the same conference will meet to get on the same page, time is of the essence with the IHSA starting basketball up in two weeks. There are also liability issues surrounding the potential of COVID-19 spreading if teams were to compete indoors this season. 

Riverside-Brookfield High School, Lyons Township High School and Nazareth Academy did not return the Landmark's request for an interview by the time this edition went to print.

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