IHSA's Anderson on the year in prep sports, girls flag football, NIL deals and more

With the 2022-23 high school sports year now in the memory books, we figured it would be a fitting end to the year to have a chat with Illinois High School Association executive director Craig Anderson.

Here's what he had to say on a variety of subjects.

Q: The pandemic is finally behind us. Please tell us how you feel the IHSA and its member schools have emerged from this unprecedented time.

A: I'd like to believe that we have emerged stronger than ever. Like so many other groups, the IHSA had to tighten its proverbial belt during that time, but with the support of our member schools and board of directors, we made the best decisions possible to maximize the participation opportunities for our student-athletes, while also maintaining the fiscal health of the organization. From my perspective, it feels like there has been a renewed excitement around high school athletics since the pandemic, so we hope that only continues to grow.

Q: Emerging sports - especially girls flag football. The NFL is pouring big money into girls flag football and the sport is taking off like wildfire. Do you see it becoming an IHSA sport soon?

A: There is no doubt that girls flag football is experiencing significant growth and will likely reach and exceed the number of schools required by IHSA policy to be considered for an IHSA state series playoff and state championship in the coming years. Participation is always a driver for a new sport, but it also takes support from our member schools. They need to assure us that they have the student-athlete interest, coaches, budget, and facility space to be able to add another sport, and the IHSA in turn needs to help develop the infrastructure as it relates to game rules, season guidelines, development of game officials, and so on. When and how each of these is achieved helps determine how soon girls flag football might become an IHSA sport. It's hard to say definitively how soon that will be, but it does feel likely to happen.

Q: State football. Do you see it being seeded 1-32 for all classes anytime soon?

A: It seems unlikely to me outside of continuing in Class 7A and 8A. We had some board members who initially supported the concept of expanding to 1-32 seeding to all classes, but it became difficult for them to continue that support after seeing the examples what the actual playoff scheduling would have looked like in some classes in recent years. The IHSA is governed by a geographic principle that says the geography will be the basis for assigning our tourneys. High school sports are built around community and fellow students being able to support their classmates in competition. We recognize the nature of the beast and know we won't eliminate all the long trips in the football playoffs, but we believe our current model better serves our schools at this juncture.

Q: Do you see any adjustments to transfer policies coming?

A: There are no special committees currently working on developing reforms to the IHSA transfer policies. The beauty of our organization is that the IHSA's annual legislative process occurs each November through December, so any member school could propose a new bylaw or amend an existing bylaw through that process. Every school has the opportunity to impact IHSA rules, transfer or otherwise.

Q: With all the seeding being done online now, is there discussion about pushing back seeding by one week to allow for more competition before seeding is done?

A: As we have transitioned to online seeding, we have pushed back the seeding dates in just about every sport so that the seeding can reflect as much of the regular-season as possible. I think we have likely gone as late as we can in just about every sport, so I don't foresee much change there. I've actually heard some feedback that moving spring sport seeding earlier would be helpful in sports where the higher seed hosts in the early rounds, as we are stretching our school facilities thin between the numerous spring sports offered and the end of the school year activities like graduation.

Q: What is the IHSA's stance on high school student-athletes signing NIL (Name, Image, Likeness) deals?

A: The IHSA membership approved a new bylaw that went into effect on July 1 that created rules to allow for NIL. Essentially, a student can be paid via an NIL partnership, but they cannot appear in any advertising in school apparel. NIL is part of the athletic fabric now and we recognize that. The next steps will be working with our board of directors to assess and potentially amend our NIL rules as new scenarios and circumstances present themselves. We do not want to stand in the way of students ability to benefit, but also need to maintain integrity and equity among our member schools.

• John Radtke can be reached at

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