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IHSA defies Gov. Pritzker, green-lights basketball season

Local players, coaches feeling cautiously optimistic
Published: Oct. 28, 2020 at 3:34 PM CDT
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ROCKFORD, Ill. (WIFR) - In a shock move, the IHSA ignored the state’s wishes to put high school hoops on hold, but will we actually see basketball tip-off on November 30?

Local players and coaches are riding this roller coaster of emotion while remaining cautiously optimistic.

“We’ve been working," said Auburn junior Rob Chaney. "We’ve been ready and we’ve been getting prepared for it.”

Chaney has been ready for basketball since socially distanced workouts started back in June.

Even with the IHSA’s move to start the season next month, East head coach Roy Sackmaster believes everyone still needs to focus on the details.

“Now it’s just a matter of making sure we maintain that safety and be smart about it and understand that there’s still a risk and be thankful for the fact that this privilege has been given back to us,” said Sackmaster.

But that privilege might be taken right back away because the IHSA’s plan might not matter because it is leaving the decision up to school districts to allow their teams to play games or not.

Governor J.B. Pritzker says if they value the health of their communities, they should reconsider.

“If there is a difference of opinion, I prefer to err on the side of health and safety and I think that’s where we have intended for all of our guidance to fall,” said Pritzker.

But as districts mull that decision over, coaches, like Auburn’s Taylor Griffin, are forging on even if it means they have to reverse course down the road.

“For me, I feel honestly this can be just the beginning," said Griffin. "I’m praying we can start on November 16th, but since they just released that, who knows what’s going to happen next? I’m going to stay positive and keep my girls positive.”

That same apprehension can be felt right down the hallway. Knights boys head coach Bryan Ott is also being cautious about the future of high school hoops because in this new world, nothing is guaranteed.

“This stuff changes so fast and so frequently, I don’t see it as a relieving thing," said Ott. "This is just one more in a series of changes that we all have to deal with. Like I tell our players, you can only control what you can control.”

ROCKFORD, Ill. (WIFR) - The Illinois High School Athletics Association will ignore state COVID-19 mitigation orders to start the high school basketball season as scheduled.

The IHSA held a special board meeting on winter sports on Wednesday.

The high school basketball season was potentially put on hold on Oct. 27, when Gov. Pritzker announced that the IDPH had changed basketball’s risk level from medium risk to high risk.

“The Board took action to follow the guidance of the IHSA Sport Medicine Advisory Committee (SMAC) and will allow Boys and Girls Basketball to begin practices, per IHSA Return to Activities 2.0, on November 16,” according to the IHSA Board.

Contests can begin on Nov. 30 within an Illinois COIVD-19 Region or within a conference. As a part of the mitigation plan, masks will be worn by all players, coaches, and officials during play.

You can read the entirety of the IHSA Board’s actions and announcement here.

“After diligent discussion, the Board has made the decision today to follow the recommendation of the IHSA SMAC as it relates to basketball. The Board remains considerate of rising COVID-19 cases in Illinois and understand the importance of adhering to safety guidelines for the good of all citizens. However, the Board has not been presented any causal evidence that rising COVID-19 cases make basketball more dangerous to play by the IDPH or any other health organization nationally or internationally. On the contrary, the IHSA has been looking to bordering states who have sponsored both medium risk and high risk sports in the fall that have noted a low incident rate of COVID-19 spread. Instead, we will require all IHSA basketball teams to adhere to those SMAC mitigations, and allow local school officials to make decisions related to participation,” according to the IHSA Board.

Boys and girls basketball teams will follow team limitations allowing a maximum of 31 games. It will become a local school decision to determine if a school will allow their basketball teams to participate following the guidelines developed by the SMAC.

“The Illinois High School Association Board of Directors made the decision today to continue with the IHSA basketball season as scheduled in 2020-21. In August, the Board slated basketball to take place from November to February based on the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) assigning a medium risk level to the sport. The IHSA Sports Medicine Advisory Committee (SMAC) offered additional mitigations, such as masks during play and social distancing on benches, that the SMAC believed would allow basketball to be played safely,” according to the IHSA Board.

The IHSA Board voted to move wrestling from the winter season to the summer season.

The board approved the IHSA’s winter sport guidance for all low risk sports, which includes boys swimming & Diving, Cheerleading, Dance, Boys & Girls Bowling and Girls Gymnastics. These sports will be conducted from Nov. 16 to Feb. 13, 2021. The mitigating guidance for each sport will be posted on the IHSA’s COVID-19 Resource page on Oct. 29. The IHSA Board will review spectator and group gatherings for all winter sports at a future meeting in November.

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