Back on Dec. 14, the IHSA released a statement stating that, before January, the Illinois High School Association and Illinois Department of Public Health, along with representatives from the Governor’s office would meet to develop a timeline to finalize sports for the remaining seasons.
But the holidays had come and gone with no such meeting having took place.
On Wednesday evening, the IHSA met with members of the IDPH, including Dr. Ngozi Ezike, Deputy Governor Jesse Ruiz, and IDPH Chief of Staff Justin DeWit.
“We appreciate the dialogue with state leadership and believe it is crucial that it continue moving forward,” said IHSA Executive Director Craig Anderson. “We understand that the state faces shifting priorities as it continues to fight the pandemic, while also beginning the distribution of the vaccine. There was no expectation that a single meeting would resolve all our questions. However, we believe that collaboration with state officials is vital for the IHSA to be able to develop an informed plan for the 300,000-plus student-athletes and over 800 high schools that encompass the Association.”
In the meeting, the IHSA asked the IDPH to look over and reassess risk levels for the remaining sports, hoping to possibly have them lower the risk levels.
The IHSA cited what other surrounding states have done to make sports like basketball happen and have not given up hope on it yet. They’re also aware that athletes in the state of Illinois have either transferred to a school outside of the state to allow them to play their respective sport, as well as playing on travel teams that take them out of the state to be allowed to play.
“We believe that there is both data and science that validates the idea that we can safely conduct sports,” said Anderson. “We have seen it work in other states and believe it can in Illinois if we utilize the mitigations provided by IDPH and the IHSA SMAC.
“Students are already leaving or participating out-of-state on weekends. We believe that competing for their high school remains the safest venue for participation.”
The IHSA Board of Directors will meet again on January 13. Until then, all sports remain how they have for months, on pause.
“Our Board of Directors is going to have difficult decisions to make regarding the seasons’ for medium- and high-risk sports very soon,” said Anderson. “With no specific IDPH timeline or statistical benchmarks established for the return of sports and the calendar shrinking, putting together a puzzle that allows for all sports to be played becomes increasingly improbable. We continue to urge all residents of our state to be diligent in their efforts to adhere to safety guidelines, as a lower positivity rate remains the key to athletics returning.”