At least 11 area schools won't be playing basketball on the IHSA's current timeline, as officials from multiple institutions announced Tuesday they've sided with Gov. J.B. Pritzker and the Illinois Department of Public Health's interpretation of basketball's safety amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley and Georgetown-Ridge Farm each individually opted out of the season that is set to begin Monday and run through Feb. 13. Leadership of the Apollo Conference, which contains Mahomet-Seymour, reportedly also decided to pull the league from IHSA hoops action.
Then, the Urbana Board of Education at its Tuesday meeting voted to follow the Pritzker/IDPH guidance over the IHSA.
Salt Fork also is opting to sit out the IHSA's upcoming campaign, as superintendent Phil Cox told The News-Gazette "I have instructed our coaches and administrators to abide by IDPH guidelines until the issue has been resolved."
Pritzker has said he wants basketball moved to the spring as COVID-19 cases continue to rise statewide.
A statement released Tuesday from M-S officials was posted to the Mahomet Daily website.
"As a member of a conference of schools, we also must acknowledge the need to coordinate contest schedules as well as the responsibility of serving the best interest of both our students and the students of other respective districts," the statement reads. "As such, the predominant conclusion among Apollo Conference member schools is to abide by common legal guidance and engage in practices that are aligned with the ISBE (Illinois State Board of Education) and public health guidance, which now puts the 'higher risk' basketball season on hold.
"Mahomet-Seymour Schools believe that it is in the best interest of our students that Governor Pritzker, the Illinois Department of Public Health and the Illinois High School Association come together to provide clear guidance (on) how to safely allow our students to participate in basketball this year."
GCMS superintendent Jeremy Darnell released a statement Tuesday about the Falcons' basketball fate.
"The decision was made based on both the system and individual legal liabilities as determined by the GCMS School District attorneys and insurance providers," the statement read. "Recently, both Governor Pritzker and Dr. Carmen Ayala (State Superintendent of Schools) have clearly stated that any district that directly defies the recommendations of IDPH, as it pertains to winter sports (basketball), would knowingly be putting their districts at risk both legally and financially."
Georgetown-Ridge Farm athletic director Kevin Thomas told The News-Gazette in an email that "Georgetown-Ridge Farm will be following the IDPH guidelines as they pertain to basketball. We will begin practicing on 11-16 (Monday) under those guidelines. We will not be playing games at this time."
These three schools join Uni High, Rantoul, Argenta-Oreana, Hoopeston Area, St. Thomas More and Schlarman as local institutions that have made it known they won't play basketball in the IHSA's Nov. 16-Feb. 13 layout.
The decisions of Rantoul and A-O were announced at their Monday respectively Monday school board meetings, and Uni High athletic director Tim Bicknell told The News-Gazette on Monday that his school "has chosen to have a 'practice-only' season for high school boys' and girls' basketball, starting November 16."
Hoopeston Area's choice was made public last Friday. STM and Schlarman were required to opt out last week in accordance with a Diocese of Peoria decision.
The IHSA Board of Directors is scheduled to meet Wednesday, which could lead to conversation about the upcoming season's future.