Here's five options for the IHSA to consider for prep sports

  • The Illinois High School Association's board of directors is expected to decide the fate of the 2020 high school sports season when it meets on Wednesday.

      The Illinois High School Association's board of directors is expected to decide the fate of the 2020 high school sports season when it meets on Wednesday. John Starks | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 7/28/2020 5:04 AM

Ready or not, it's decision-making time for the Illinois High School Association.

At some point Wednesday -- in the midst of a COVID-19 situation that's becoming more fluid by the day -- the IHSA's board of directors will meet to decide the fate of high-school sports in Illinois for at least the fall season and perhaps the entire 2020-21 school year.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

While time is short between now and the scheduled start of fall practice on August 10, the options are many for an organization facing the biggest crisis in its 120-year history.

Last Friday IHSA executive director Craig Anderson participated in a video conference with representatives from the Illinois Department of Health and the Illinois State Board of Education in an attempt to get on the same page for how to proceed.

That meeting will form the basis for Wednesday's decision by the IHSA's board of directors.

With so much at stake for thousands of high-school athletes, here's a rundown of the IHSA's options.

Delay and shorten:

Over the past couple weeks this has developed into a likely option for the IHSA as high school administrators submitted proposals to push Anderson to think outside the box.

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The fall season would be delayed but not canceled, and prep sports postponed until December. It's an option already being implemented in other states.

There'd still be three seasons but they'd be shortened. The IHSA would start with winter sports, continue with fall sports near the start of March and conclude with spring sports.

This option is not ideal, but what is? Yes, it'd eventually collide with summer travel sports. But by buying time for the pandemic to hopefully recede, it's the only option that allows equitable competition for all seasons.

The IHSA does not want a repeat of the spring where an entire season of competition was lost. For the seniors especially, it was a harsh reality.

Flip it:

Some states are proposing to switch football and other fall sports to the spring while flipping non-contact spring sports to the fall.

While it's possible the IHSA might choose to flip seasons, don't bet on it. It's a logistical nightmare on many levels and time is running out to pull it together.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

And let's say non-contact spring sports get flipped to the fall and there's a spike in COVID-19 cases in the next couple months. Is the IHSA willing to risk spring sports being canceled for a second straight school year?

Probably not.

Play and delay:

The IHSA might decide to go full-speed ahead with non-contact fall sports like golf, girls tennis and cross country in modified forms while delaying the start of contact sports like football, boys soccer and girls volleyball in the hope that those sports might be able to compete by October or so.

For many coaches, athletes and parents involved with non-contact fall sports, it's a mystery why there shouldn't be a fall season for them. They've got a point but there's still debate as to whether the IHSA is willing to choose an option that allows some but not all athletes the opportunity to play.

This is a darkhorse choice. Believe it or not, certain football coaches prefer a delayed fall start to the logistical mess of a spring season.

Cancel and move on:

The powers that be in Illinois have a lot on their plate right now. Without the time, patience or energy to sift through a mass of options, it's possible the IDPH, ISBE and Governor's office recommended a cancellation of the fall season with the hope that winter and spring sports proceed as scheduled.

It's the path of least resistance but don't bet on this option either.

Again, the IHSA prefers an option that allows everyone to compete this school year. It's tough to imagine they'd sacrifice the fall sports.

Play ball:

The least likely of all options is for the IHSA to approve its August 10 start date for fall sports including football, boys soccer and girls volleyball.

Simply look around.

More than a dozen members of the Miami Marlins tested positive for COVID-19. The College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin postponed its fall season. The Minnesota Vikings' head trainer and infection control officer tested positive along with members of his family.

This was all on Monday, so it's nearly impossible to imagine the IHSA choosing business as usual.

If the last four-plus months have taught us anything, business as usual doesn't exist.

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