PEORIA – Despite the Illinois Department of Public Health’s decision to rate basketball a high-risk activity, the Illinois High School Association (IHSA) announced Wednesday the state’s high schools will have a basketball season.
IHSA made the decision to ignore the state order after a special meeting, during which the board also voted to move wrestling to the summer season, which will be held April 19 to June 26. Boys swimming, diving, cheerleading, dance, boys and girls bowling, and girls gymnastics – also classified as winter sports by the IHSA – have been deemed low-risk.
IHSA officials said they were caught off-guard by the move Tuesday by Gov. J.B. Pritzker and the health department to rate basketball a high-risk activity, meaning athletes couldn’t do more than participate in non-contact workouts. Practice for boys and girls basketball is scheduled to begin Nov. 16, with games being played by Nov. 30.
However, it’s possible some schools and school districts could follow the lead of the health department and decide not to play. In a statement, IHSA said its board hasn’t been presented with evidence rising COVID-19 cases make basketball more dangerous to play.
“I get it, you know, COVID is something we need to be concerned about and we continue to be so, but if there’s a place where students should be competing, it’s within our schools where safety guidelines that we put forward can be followed and students can reap all the benefits of participation,” IHSA Executive Director Craig Anderson said.
The IHSA’s decision came on a day when the health department announced 51 additional COVID-19-related deaths. There have been a total of 9,619 fatalities among 389,095 confirmed cases. Pritzker said school districts have been told what the rules are when it comes to COVID-19 and high school sports.
“So the IHSA may have their views, but school districts know what the rules are, and I think it’s unfortunate that they would be probably taking on legal liability if they went ahead and moved beyond what the state has set as the mitigation standard,” he said.
The IHSA said it will be up to the individual districts to determine if their teams will play. Any teams that do compete will be required to wear masks the entire time.