High school football, girls volleyball, boys soccer seasons moved to spring

  • The stadium lights won't be turned on at Illinois high schools for football this fall.

      The stadium lights won't be turned on at Illinois high schools for football this fall. John Starks | Staff Photographer

  • Lake Zurich High School's football stadium will remain empty this fall.

      Lake Zurich High School's football stadium will remain empty this fall. Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 7/29/2020 6:01 PM

Play on -- at least in some sports. But not for all.

The Illinois High School Association board of directors voted on Wednesday to move the football, girls volleyball and boys soccer seasons to spring, while making season adjustments to all sports for the 2020-21 school year.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

All other fall sports -- boys and girls golf, boys and girls cross country, girls swimming and girls tennis -- will be played as scheduled, with restrictions, according to the IHSA. The plan has been sent to the Illinois Department of Public Health for final approval.

After weeks of uncertainty amid ongoing concerns surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, the IHSA board made the decision at its meeting on Wednesday, after news from Gov. J.B. Pritzker's office that placed new restrictions on a wide array of sports, including school-based programs.

"This plan, like nearly every aspect of our current lives, remains fluid," said IHSA Executive Director Craig Anderson. "Changes may come, and if they do, we will be agile while putting safety and students first. It was important that we provide a framework today for our student-athletes, coaches, administrators, and officials to begin preparing for the 2020-21 school year.

"We believe the plan we presented will meet IDPH approval."

Spectator and participation limitations must follow IDPH guidelines, meaning groups of 50 or less, and competitions should be within an Illinois COVID region or within a conference.

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The newly released guidance from the governor's office categorizes sports into three risk levels -- lower, medium, or higher -- based on the amount of contact between athletes and their proximity during play.

According to the guidelines, football is considered a higher-risk sport. The guidelines did not specify a timetable for moving from one level to the next, but they go into effect Aug. 15.

Boys soccer and girls volleyball are considered medium-risk, and boys and girls golf, boys and girls cross country, girls swimming and girls tennis are lower-risk.

Practices may begin for golf, cross country, swimming and tennis on Aug. 10, the IHSA said. Season dates the IHSA has established are Aug. 10-Oct. 24 for the fall, Nov. 16-Feb. 13 for winter, Feb. 15-May 1 for spring, and May 3-June 26 for summer.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"The dates we created are our first attempt at getting the medium- to high-risk sports scheduled for competition," Anderson said. "We just have to see how this progresses."

Anderson said schools will be provided more details in the coming week about the scheduling limits, and scheduling will continue to be assessed throughout each season.

"It's a pretty fair attempt to try to get some sports in already starting this fall," Barrington High School Athletic Director Mike Obsustz said. "It's a tough juggling act by the IHSA taking the wishes of the member schools, what the state board of education was laying out and then Governor Pritzker coming out with some new details and guidelines. I think it's a realistic schedule."

Anderson also confirmed the IHSA has heard from some school districts opting for full remote learning that they will not be allowing students to participate in sports. He did not name those districts.

State series tournament decisions will be made on a sport-by-sport basis as each season progresses, but providing postseason opportunities remains a priority of the board, the IHSA said.

"I understand that today's announcement will be met with mixed emotions," Anderson said. "Our staff and board have heard from thousands of people over the past few weeks with ideas, opinions, and proposals on how we should proceed. We respect and understand their passion, because we share in it. It is a great reminder that if we want high school sports to return to normal, we all need to do our part to help stop the spread of COVID-19."

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