The back and forth between the Illinois High School Association and Gov. J.B. Pritzker about playing high school basketball in the state this winter amid the COVID-19 pandemic is still at a standstill.
But the IHSA is hoping for a "collaborative" approach about possible decisions regarding the upcoming season.
That's what the IHSA Board of Directors came up with Wednesday afternoon during a special meeting to discuss the basketball season. A regularly scheduled board meeting is set for Nov. 19, when the IHSA has officially invited representatives from Pritzker's office and the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) to attend the meeting.
The IHSA is also seeking representation at the meeting from the Illinois Principals Association (IPA), the Illinois Association of School Administrators (IASA), the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) and a coalition of nearly 200 school superintendents who issued a letter last Friday addressed to Pritzker regarding sports during the 2020-21 school year.
"The Board hopes to create a dialogue and build a more collaborative relationship with all the entities involved with developing sports policy in our state as everyone tries to navigate the myriad issues caused by the pandemic," IHSA executive director Craig Anderson said in a statement. “The Board’s decision to move forward with the IHSA basketball season was not meant to be adversarial. 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 November 19."
On Oct. 27, Pritzker announced high school basketball was on hold and moved the sport up to a high-risk designation in the state (meaning only no-contact practices could be held) from a medium-risk status because of the rising COVID-19 positivity rate.
A day later, on Oct. 28, the IHSA defied the orders from Pritzker and the guidelines from the IDPH, with its board voting to still play basketball during a condensed schedule from Nov. 16 through Feb. 13. All players, coaches, officials and other essential personnel working those games — which could have started Nov. 30 — would have to do so wearing face masks or coverings.
But then, on Oct. 29, Pritzker said basketball would move to the spring without offering any specific timeline on when the sport might start.
These public salvos between both entities, along with warnings from the ISBE about possible legal and liability ramifications schools might face if they choose to play basketball and defy the guidelines, have led to numerous high schools and their decision-making bodies to vote earlier in November to postpone the season.
Area schools like St. Thomas More, Schlarman, Rantoul, Mahomet-Seymour, Urbana, Uni High and others have already indicated they won't go against the guidelines to play basketball this winter.
The IHSA Board announced on Wednesday for schools who plan to begin basketball practice on Monday, they should adhere to Level 1 mitigations from the IDPH All Sports Policy until at least Nov. 19. The Board plans to provide more direction on basketball practice and games following the meeting on Nov. 19.
The IHSA Board also revealed of 546 schools who responded to a survey about playing this basketball season — the IHSA has 813 member schools — that nearly 300 schools said they were not planning on starting basketball next Monday and another 212 schools were unsure of their status.
"The Board recognizes the difficult decision they have placed on member schools regarding basketball," Anderson said. "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."