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BLOOMINGTON — The latest IHSA Board of Directors meeting concluded with prep sports competition still on hold, but also with direction for many athletic ventures when it comes to future practice time.

The board conducted its regularly scheduled December meeting on Monday. Among actions taken was the approval of contact days for 2020-21 fall, spring and summer sports, with those days allowed to begin upon the lifting of Tier 3 mitigations currently imposed by Gov. J.B. Pritzker and the Illinois Department of Public Health in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

"The board felt that it was important for the physical and mental health of our student-athletes to resume contact days for all out-of-season sports as soon as IDPH deems it safe," IHSA executive director Craig Anderson said in a statement.

This currently doesn't include winter sports, as the IHSA hopes to get those seasons started once the calendar turns to 2021.

The board announced Monday it aims to meet with officials from both Pritzker's office and the IDPH sometime this month to establish "a timeline for the resumption of winter sports," according to the statement. Once that meeting happens, the board will conduct a special meeting to finalize schedules for winter, spring and summer sports.

"There have been no cancellations of any sports, or discussions about cancelling any sports, thus far," Anderson said. "The board appreciates the patience and flexibility of the IHSA membership and remains optimistic, especially as vaccines begin to be administered, that we will return to conducting IHSA sports early in 2021.”

Basketball remains in a tricky situation when it comes to resuming winter sports. Pritzker has said he wants basketball to start in the spring, and it's considered a higher-risk sport by IDPH standards.

"We hope to be able to conduct basketball during the winter season," Anderson said, "but if we cannot, basketball will be provided the same contact day opportunity as we determine where the basketball seasons fits best in the remainder of the school year.”

Football, volleyball and boys' soccer presently are slated to take place in the IHSA's spring timeline of Feb. 15-May 1. Baseball, softball, wrestling, girls' soccer, track and field and boys' tennis are supposed to transpire during the summer season of April 19-June 26.

Basketball and boys' swimming and diving seasons were expected to begin Nov. 16 and run through Feb. 13 before the IHSA paused winter sports on Nov. 19, in order to fall in line with IDPH guidance.

These new contact days permit practices, drills and intra-squad scrimmages at a rate of "six hours per student-athlete per sport each week," according to the statement.

Also Monday, the board approved a one-year extension to state-hosting contracts for multiple venues, all of which have been or likely will be unable to host tournaments this school year because of the pandemic. Among them are the University of Illinois' Memorial Stadium for football and State Farm Center for boys' basketball.

Champaign won the right to host the boys' basketball state tournament last June for the 2021, 2022 and 2023 state tournaments. This followed 25 years of Peoria hosting the event.

The board also approved virtual state series for the winter activities of music, chess, speech, debate and drama. Scholastic bowl will have a state series, but it is unclear how that will play out at this time.

Colin Likas is the preps coordinator at The News-Gazette. He can be reached at clikas@news-gazette.com, or on Twitter at @clikasNG.

College/Prep Sports Reporter

Colin Likas covers Illinois football and high school sports at The News-Gazette. His email is clikas@news-gazette.com, and you can follow him on Twitter (@clikasNG).

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