COVID-19 spikes in Illinois factor into ECC's decision to cancel basketball season
It is the holidays, so there are always a few Grinches in the crowd.
But Kent Payne never pegged himself as one. Until Tuesday.
"I feel like the Grinch who took Christmas away," Payne said.
Payne is the athletic director at Elgin Community College.
On Tuesday, he and his staff made the difficult decision to cancel the entire 2020-21 season for men's basketball, women's basketball and volleyball.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, those seasons were postponed, and there was a proposal by the Illinois Skyway Collegiate Conference, in which ECC is a member, to start those seasons in February.
But because COVID numbers in Illinois have been spiking in recent weeks, Payne and Elgin Community College decided to be cautious yet decisive and pull the plug now on a potential season.
"It was a difficult decision, but we felt it would be in the best interest of our kids and their families," Payne said. "And we wanted to make the decision with time for the kids to decide if they wanted to come back for the second semester or do something else.
"One thing that's nice is that whether you play or not, your eligibility isn't affected. So our kids won't lose a year or anything like that."
Elgin Community College is one of several community and junior colleges in the area to cancel athletic seasons for the school year.
College of DuPage, which is a member of the North Central Community College Conference, as is Harper and Joliet Junior College, announced last week that it is canceling football, men's and women's basketball, men's and women's soccer and volleyball for the school year.
"We currently do not feel like we can do this safely while keeping the health, safety, and welfare of our student athletes at the forefront of our decision making," College of DuPage athletic director Ryan Kaiser said. "However, these six sports will have the ability to workout, train, and receive skill instruction in a structured and monitored environment."
At College of Lake County, athletic programs are on pause and the administration will meet on Jan. 27 to make decisions on seasons for men's and women's basketball, and volleyball.
"We are hopeful to return to practice Feb. 1, and to resume competitive play by March 1," CLC athletic director Brad Unger said. "However, that is not definitive."
Morton College is in a similar situation and is on pause, with the hope of starting practices for both men's and women's basketball on Jan. 4, and starting competitions the week of Jan. 20, per NJCAA guidelines.