BLOOMINGTON — The Illinois High School Association has invited Gov. JB Pritzker’s office and representatives from the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) to discuss the association’s plans to hold a basketball season this winter, against the state’s recommendation.
The Bloomington-based association decided in October to proceed with a basketball season, one day after IDPH reclassified basketball as a high-risk sport for COVID-19 spread.
Executive Director Craig Anderson said the IHSA board wants to build a more collaborative relationship with the state and other education groups when it meets on Nov. 19, three days after basketball practices are scheduled to begin.
“The (IHSA) board’s decision to move forward with the IHSA basketball season was not meant to be adversarial” Anderson said. “It was rooted in a desire to receive more direct communication and data from our state partners. They hope all the groups will see the mutual benefit of increased discourse and be represented at the meeting on Nov. 19.”
The IHSA said it also has invited representatives from the Illinois Principals Association (IPA), the Illinois Association of School Administrators (IASA), the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) to participate in the meeting, along with a group of nearly 200 school superintendents who recently contacted the governor’s office regarding school sports during the 2020-21 school year.
The basketball season is scheduled to start on Nov. 30. Players and coaches would be required to wear masks and socially distance on the bench. The season would start without fans.
The ISHA released survey results that show only about three dozen Illinois high schools told the association they plan to field basketball teams this season. The survey indicated nearly 300 schools don’t plan to start on Nov. 16, while 212 schools remain unsure of their status. The IHSA said 546 schools responded to the survey.
“The board recognizes the difficult decisions they have placed on member schools regarding basketball,” said Anderson. “With a limited number of schools set to begin their season on Nov. 16, they believe it is prudent to adhere to IDPH guidance as they work with state officials to gain greater clarity on the metrics and mitigations required to conduct certain high school sports throughout the remainder of the 2020-21 school year.”
Peoria Public Schools decided this week to postpone basketball until spring at the earliest. Bloomington High School also has decided against participating in winter basketball. Unit 5 hasn’t decided whether Normal Community and Normal West high schools will play this season.
Schools in the Heart of Illinois conference that includes smaller schools in McLean and surrounding counties are still exploring options, according to Lexington school Superintendent Paul Deters.
The News-Gazette reports that at least 11 schools in its coverage area have decided not to play basketball until there is updated guidance from the Illinois Department of Public Health. Those schools include Urbana, Mahomet-Seymour, St. Thomas More, and University High in Urbana.
Eric Stock is a reporter with WGLT in Normal.