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IHSA opts to start high school basketball season despite state COVID concerns

Sports

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – One day after Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker’s administration announced the high school basketball in the state would be viewed as a higher risk for coronavirus and would, in essence, be put on hold, the state’s athletic association fired back and said practices could start November 16 with games on November 30.

“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,” the Illinois High School Association said in a news release Wednesday afternoon. “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.”

The statement said local school officials will be allowed to make participation decisions.

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. Masks will be required for players, coaches, and officials.

The announcement confirmed that Wrestling will move to a summer schedule starting in April, while Boys Swimming & Diving, Cheerleading, Dance, Boys & Girls Bowling, and Girls Gymnastics will stay in the traditional winter season, starting November 16.

Shortly after the IHSA announcement, Governor Pritzker said school districts “would probably be taking on legal liability if they went ahead and moved beyond what the state has set as the mitigation standard,” adding that his administration erred on the side of health and safety.

Cahokia Unit School District #187 Superintendent Arnett Harvey said safety will be a priority when the district makes a decision.

“Our board of education is extremely concerned, just as others are about the safety of all of our students and our staff,” he said.

Harvey said if the governor, the state board of education, the state’s health department, and COVID metrics indicate it’s not safe to start the season or postpone it, then that’s what the district will do.

He acknowledged athletics plays a vital role in the school’s community but said safety is the top priority. 

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