The Illinois High School Association (IHSA) Board of Directors met for a special meeting on July 29, 2020, where the Board announced its intended plans for the 2020-21 school year.
“This plan, like nearly every aspect of our current lives, remains fluid,” said IHSA Executive Director Craig Anderson. “Changes may come, and if they do, we will be agile while putting safety and students first. It was important that we provide a framework today for our student-athletes, coaches, administrators, and officials to begin preparing for the 2020-21 school year.”
The COVID-19 pandemic led the Board to propose unprecedented scheduling changes for the 2020-21 school year. They include playing all sports over the course of truncated fall, winter, spring, and summer seasons. As a result, several team sports will shift to new seasons, including football, boys soccer, and girls volleyball moving from the fall to the spring.
IHSA cross country will remain as a fall sport, and can proceed to start on August 10 as scheduled. Per Governor Pritzker’s announcement on Wednesday, fall sports will begin with competition limited to conference opponents and other schools in the same general geographical area.
Schools will be provided more details in the coming week about the scheduling limits, and scheduling will continue to be assessed throughout each season.
The condensed 2020-21 season dates will be as follows:
Fall: August 10 to October 24
Winter: November 16 to February 13
Spring: February 15 to May 1
Summer: May 3 to June 26
Fearing their seasons would be cancelled due to the pandemic, those contacted were happy they could still hope for competition regardless of safety restrictions.
ALAH Knights head football coach Ryan Jefferson said, “I thought the plan put in place by the IHSA was the best situation we could have hoped for. Even though every single state that borders Illinois is proceeding with fall sports for now, I was kind of anticipating this move by the IHSA. I would much rather have a chance for a somewhat full season 7 months from now than have started official practices and games, only to have it shut down should Covid-19 statistics worsen.”
He went on to say, “I’m not ready to let my seniors go, so it’s bittersweet because while fall without football will be very unusual, it just means I get 9-10 more months (season ends May 1) with those guys. The spring season will not be without some challenges, including frigid cold days in the beginning stages of practice to a probability of several rainy practices, games, and muddy fields, but I have no doubts the team will do whatever is necessary to overcome the adversity.”
Cerro Gordo Athletic Director and Cerro Gordo Bement varsity boys’ basketball coach Brandon Willard said, “I am happy that the IHSA has come to some sort of decision, as it was causing a lot of anxiety amongst the student athletes and coaches. I am also happy that it will give everyone an opportunity to have their own seasons.”
Willard added, “However, I feel as though the decisions were football driven, and decisions were made to accommodate football by cutting other sports and I am not sure that was the right decision. I am very excited about having a football season and I am grateful our kids have a chance to play. I’m just concerned with how it will cut into the other sports. But this plan is better than no plan, so I am happy!”
“ALAH volleyball is optimistic with the new modified schedules for the 2020-2021 school year. While we are disappointed that we won’t be playing this fall, this at least gives us hope of a season to come. The girls have been working extremely hard this summer, both mentally and physically preparing for the unknown. They have taken it all in stride and made the most of these difficult situations,” coach Emily Crossman stated.
She continued adding, “We are trying to take the mindset of we just have more time to prepare and improve before February. Hopefully we keep moving in the right direction so that we can have a relatively normal season come this spring.”
Sheila Greenwood, Bement Superintendent commented, “This was a tough decision. I think they did the best they could to help all student athletes to be able to participate. Not ideal to be playing spring sports in the summer.”
“There will be additional issues that come up with that such as other leagues, supervision, ability to get officials, and field maintenance for an additional month. A.D.s and conference officials have a lot of work to do now to try to make this work. I’m hoping that when we can resume extra-curricular activities safely soon,” Greenwood stated.
“Ecstatic that we’re having a season! Fully expected it to be cancelled,” ALAH cross country Coach Lyle Dorjahn said. “Not sure what our schedule will look like though all the invitational’s we normally go to are within the designated COVID-19 region. Starts of meets will look different but if we run in seeded flights I’m good with that. We already run one big invite that way and it’s fun and exciting. “
Dorjahn continued, “Hope we can get in a regional and sectional in state series. Again, those events normally fall within our state designated COVID-19 region. Fingers are crossed that the IHSA has plans to run a state meet if there is a subsidence of corona virus. We should have a Top 10 state ranked team. Glad they will get the opportunity to do their thing.”
Cerro Gordo Superintendent Brett Robinson’s response to the IHSA decision was, “We appreciate the efforts of the IHSA and the IESA. Their decisions to postpone and modify sports seasons are a sensible approach. We’re hopeful that all of our student athletes will be able to safely participate this school year.”
State Series tournament decisions will be made on a sport-by-sport basis as each season progresses, but providing postseason opportunities remains a priority of the IHSA board. This could potentially include culminating State Series Tournaments after Regional or Sectional rounds, or seeking other non-traditional means to conduct events.
The Board also verified that IHSA by-laws do not prevent schools who are conducting remote learning from participating in IHSA sports and activities. Participation will remain a local school and district decision, regardless of the learning plan a high school is utilizing.
The Board discussed IHSA activities for the 2020-21 school year but did not take any action. The IHSA’s activity offerings include Bass Fishing, Chess, Debate, Drama & Group Interpretation, Individual Events, Journalism, Music & Scholastic Bowl.
“We believe we can still offer many of our activities via virtual contests,” said Anderson. “The Board has asked our staff to investigate those possibilities, and we will report back soon on if and how each can be held.”