Radtke: It's time for state officials to meet with IHSA
The time has come for an answer to the question about high school sports: How long do you hit the Pause button before you push Play, Fast-Forward or Stop?
With Feb. 13 looming as the final day for the winter sports season that has yet to begin, we asked Illinois High School Association executive director Craig Anderson Wednesday how long the IHSA can wait before conceding the winter season isn't going to happen.
"It's fair to say that once we get into January, where we don't have anything underway, it becomes a concern as to the timeline available for the current winter, spring and summer seasons," Anderson said. "Some things will have to come to a stop and some seasons won't be played. Our board has been committed to some sort of season in all sports but the clock is ticking."
Anderson has repeatedly tried, to no avail, to set a meeting date with representatives from the Illinois Department of Public Health and Gov. J.B. Pritzker's office to discuss a potential timeline for the return to sports. Anderson said his last direct correspondence with deputy Gov. Jesse Ruiz was Dec. 23.
The return to sports is clearly in the hands of the IDPH and the governor's office. The IHSA tried in November to go ahead with a winter season, against public health guidelines. While it may have been a noble gesture, it was quickly shot down as school districts were told by their legal counsels and insurance companies the liability would be too great.
And as Tier 3 mitigations remain in place, high school sports remain on pause.
Anderson sent an email to all of the state's athletic directors on Wednesday.
"We were unsuccessful with being able to schedule a meeting with IDPH in advance of the new year," the email said. "Deputy Gov. Jesse Ruiz has indicated he is trying to get a meeting set up prior to the Jan. 13 IHSA board of directors meeting. We do not have confirmation of a meeting as I send this update. In considering our struggles to get a meeting set up, we are asking your consideration in reaching out to your local representatives to consider supporting this effort. The General Assembly will be organizing again this Friday, Jan. 8, in Springfield."
Pritzker said Wednesday: "It's not like there's no discussion about sports. It's just that the IHSA, which is one of many organizations in the state ... that we have doctors and others that we rely upon internally to help us make decisions. When it's appropriate to have a conversation with an organization, they'll do that."
With no light at the end of the tunnel for a meeting, and with COVID-19 case numbers rising again, it seems likely there will not be a winter season as currently scheduled.
"We want to have a conversation (with state officials) as soon as we can and hopefully get a timeline together," Anderson said. "I think there's still an opportunity for winter but it would only happen with adjustments to spring and summer.
"The board will start discussions about that next week and we've looked at some different models as a staff, but with the unknown it's hard to put things into a timeline when we don't have any direction from the state.
"We're still not engaged in any activities. The life lessons and all the benefits that come from that are being taken away. All of that hits heavy for me and so many others."
While the IDPH and governor's office have more pressing issues to deal with, it seems time to find a couple of hours to sit down with the IHSA and offer direction on an issue affecting thousands.