Comments Off on Against the clock: IHSA goes back to work on season schedules for Jan. 27 meeting but allows contact days with mitigations

The season remains in limbo. Just like much of it has for months.Coaches, student-athletes and fans expecting the Illinois High School Association to unveil a plan for the remainder of the 2020-21 sports calendar after Wednesday’s board meeting didn’t get it.Again.While the IHSA confirmed it does “hope to conduct all IHSA sports during the remainder of the school year calendar,” time is not on its side.“The most frustrating thing about this is there hasn’t been any guidance,” Evergreen Park boys basketball coach Jim Sexton said. “They just keep moving it down the road without making any decision. I wish there were a plan in place.”Sexton might get his wish Jan. 27. That’s when the IHSA will meet again to review options for an updated sports schedule.Much depends on when Gov. J.B. Pritzker and the Illinois Department of Public Health allow sports to restart.Golf, cross country, girls swimming and girls tennis are the only sports that have competed during this school year. That was before Pritzker stopped all sports on Nov. 20.“We realize there is a desire for finality on a sports schedule for 2020-21,” the IHSA said in a statement. “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.“Per Governor 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. We recognize that if no sports have resumed by February, season lengths could be impacted in certain sports and that we may need to take a longer look at the likelihood of true seasons being conducted in high-risk sports this year.”The winter season, which includes boys and girls basketball, had been scheduled to begin Nov. 16. The spring season, which includes football, girls volleyball and boys soccer, has been scheduled to begin Feb. 15. The summer season, which includes baseball and softball, has been scheduled to start April 19.Former St. Laurence and current Evergreen Park boys basketball coach Jim Sexton is the all-time leading scorer in Brother Rice history.Joliet Catholic girls volleyball coach Christine Scheibe said she believes the IHSA needs to produce a concrete plan by Jan. 27.“We’re getting so late in the school year now that if these sports are going to get played, they have to have a plan,” Scheibe said. “There is still the hope that we can get started on time. I’m just crossing my fingers we can get a season in.“If it would have been me, we would have played in the fall. I think on Jan. 27 they will definitely have to have some answers for us.”Rich Township boys basketball coach Cornelius Crossley sympathizes with the IHSA and families of student-athletes.“My own thoughts on whether or not we should play are back and forth,” he said. “I understand kids want to play. You can’t redshirt or get another year of eligibility in high school. But it has to be safe.“I couldn’t live with myself if something happened to one of my players. I don’t want to be on the wrong side of history.”Thornton boys basketball coach Tai Streets confirmed it has been tough keeping his players’ spirits up.“They want to play,” he said. “I just keep telling them to keep in shape and keep working in a safe environment. That’s all you can really do.“It’s frustrating not knowing, one way or the other, if there’s going to be a season. It’s getting late in the school year.”Rich East’s Gary Clay Jr. soars to the basket for a layup during a game against Thornton on Friday, Feb. 14, 2020.West Aurora football coach Nate Eimer said he thinks the IHSA and Pritzker’s office have not clearly explained their actions.“We have two groups in charge of high school athletics in the state, the IHSA and governor’s office,” Eimer said. “And I don’t think they’ve done a good job of responding to our kids. I’m not simply talking about letting them play, but doing a better job of explaining their decision to the kids.“If there is data for a decision, explain it. If there’s not enough data to make a decision, then say that. We do have 30-some states that have played football, for example. It seems to me there should be more data to explain if it was the right decision or not.”Sexton, who was named Evergreen Park’s coach on March 24 after spending three seasons at St. Laurence, remains optimistic a season will occur.“I’m confident the IHSA and the governor’s office are going to try and work something out,” he said. “Just tell me when and where and we’ll be ready to go.”The board also announced all high school sports not operating under an official IHSA season calendar may begin to conduct contact days as soon as IDPH mitigations and local school guidance allow them.“The IHSA acknowledges the immense mental, emotional, and physical strain that a lack of contact with school programs is causing Illinois high school student-athletes,” IHSA executive director Craig Anderson said. “It is our intention that these contact days provide sport-specific training under the leadership of high school coaches.“This is an effort to provide a viable sports option to high school athletes given the growing number of student-athletes opting for higher risk opportunities within the state and across state lines.”Staff writers Rick Armstrong and Tony Baranek contributed.

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