Two days before yet another important IHSA Board of Directors meeting regarding the fate of winter sports, the organization is accepting upcoming mitigations for youth recreation sports pertaining to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Thursday's meeting was expected to address the 2020-21 basketball season, which has been a source of debate between the IHSA and state officials that include Gov. J.B. Pritzker.
It now seems, however, that the IHSA is preparing for no sports — not just basketball — through the rest of 2020.
"We remain optimistic that these new mitigations, coupled with the emergence of a vaccine, will aid in creating participation opportunities in the new year for IHSA student-athletes in winter, spring and summer sports," IHSA Executive Director Craig Anderson said in a statement on Tuesday evening. "The IHSA Board of Directors will meet as scheduled on (Thursday) to continue plotting out potential paths for IHSA sport and activity participation through the remainder of the school year."
Pritzker announced new pandemic-related mitigations Tuesday afternoon as positive cases continue to rise both across the state and nationally. Included in these mitigations, which go into effect statewide on Friday, is a section about youth and adult recreational sports.
The following restrictions are being placed upon those activities, which include park district and travel league action, starting Friday:
— Pause all indoor group sporting and recreational activities, including youth and adult recreational sports; individual training may remain (with facility reservation);
— Outdoor sports and recreation allowed;
— Participant groups and practices outdoors limited to 10 persons or less with social distancing;
— Face coverings required for all activities at all times;
— Locker rooms should be closed.
These mitigations affect high school basketball, boys' swimming and diving, competitive cheer and dance, bowling and girls' gymnastics, all of which are indoor sports. Wrestling, traditionally a winter sport, already has been moved to later in the school year in response to the pandemic.
The IHSA board extended invitations to numerous parties for its Thursday meeting, including to representatives of Pritzker's office and the Illinois Department of Public Health. Pritzker said Monday he won't be involved in the meeting, and the Peoria Journal Star since has reported Deputy Gov. Jesse Ruiz and IDPH leader Dr. Ngozi O. Ezike also won't attend.
"Although representatives from the governor’s office and the Illinois Department of Public Health will be unable to attend the meeting, (Tuesday's) updated guidance from Gov. Pritzker will aid the board’s decision-making," Anderson said. "We have asked Deputy Gov. Ruiz and Dr. Ezike to engage with us in the near future, so that we can collaborate on developing a plan to safely conduct IHSA sports and activities as soon as possible.
"IHSA schools have been exemplary in adhering to state regulations throughout this pandemic, and we hope that non-school programs will hold themselves to the same standard as we all put the long-term health and safety of our fellow citizens ahead of short-term athletic competition.”
The IHSA's stance toward these mitigations is a pivot from the late-October announcement that the IHSA board was defying Pritzker's desire for basketball to be played in the spring, instead allowing individual school districts and leadership groups to choose whether or not their teams would compete. The IHSA's winter season, for basketball and other sports, was to last from Monday through Feb. 13.