Why the IHSA board needs to roll out a plan, and here are some suggestions
The Illinois High School Association staff and board of directors meet Wednesday, and this may be their most challenging meeting since the pandemic hit last March.
Winter sports are on pause with no clarity on resumption from the state health department nor from Gov. J.B. Pritzker.
The meeting the IHSA had last week with IDPH officials and Deputy Gov. Jesse Ruiz turned out to be nothing more than patronizing -- at least that's what I deduced from an IHSA statement. No decisions. No timeline for the return of sports. Nada.
That leaves a month to the end of a season which hasn't started. It leaves the student-athletes in basketball, boys swimming, cheerleading and dance, bowling and girls gymnastics without a season. Only one whose head is buried in the sand would believe a winter season is viable based on the IHSA calendar.
It also leaves us one month from the start of a spring season in which football, boys soccer, girls volleyball, boys gymnastics and water polo are scheduled to be played.
The state is giving the IHSA little direction as to when sport levels of risk may change. Until that happens all we can do is guess when sports might return. It's what the IHSA staff and board will certainly be doing Wednesday.
The time has come for the IHSA to put more pressure on the state for guidance, and a timeline. The IHSA on Wednesday needs to come up with a plan to present to the state for the restart of sports. We know IHSA staff has been working on that, and so have I.
The one statement from IHSA executive director Craig Anderson in last week's statement that hit home was this: "With no specific IDPH timeline or statistical bench marks established for the return of sports and the calendar shrinking, putting together a puzzle that allows for all sports to be played becomes increasingly improbable."
Let's give this a whirl as something to present to the IDPH and Pritzker.
• Cancel winter sports as scheduled. Move basketball to spring. Unfortunately, this would mean boys swimming, girls gymnastics, bowling, cheerleading and dance would not be held.
• Set March 1 to return to sports, using the current model for spring sports. March 15 would be the date to begin competition for basketball, boys soccer, girls volleyball, boys gymnastics and water polo.
Football would start March 19 and have a six-week regular season with three weeks of regional playoffs. Or, just play a nine-week football season with no playoffs. The spring season would end May 15.
Summer season practices start May 3 for those athletes not involved in a spring sport. Summer sport competitions begin May 17 through June 26.
Not perfect, but what is. There will be conflicts and challenges. Facilities will be an issue. Scheduling will be difficult. Multisport athletes would have to choose which sport to play, but just having the opportunity to play should override that challenge.
There's more to consider such as conflicts with club sports being high on the list.
And until the IHSA can get some further guidance from the state, we remain on pause.
Could the IHSA board kick the can across the street and defer to the state for more guidance before rolling out a plan? Sure, but it must realize the time has come to present a plan to the state. There's little chance anything can move forward until that's done.