The Illinois High School Association and Governor J.B. Pritzker are set to clash over whether the 2020 winter basketball season will be held. According to email sent to athletic directors around the state today, IHSA spokesperson Matt Troha wrote that the IHSA will be following their own safety and mitigation guidelines as it relates to basketball. Troha said in the email that the IHSA board is cognizant of the rising COVID-19 cases in the state but they have not received any evidence that rising COVID-19 cases make basketball more dangerous to play by the IDPH or any other health organization nationally or internationally.
The email also says that the IHSA is allowing local school officials to make decisions related to participation in the basketball season. According to the Chicago Sun-Times, if a school participates, they would be opened up to liability by playing against the guidelines released by Pritzker and IDPH yesterday.
Pritzker responded in kind today to the IHSA’s decision during a Q&A session during his daily COVID-19 press conference: “We’ve told school districts what the rules are and I think they all know. The IHSA may have their views on it but the school districts know the rules. It’s unfortunate. They could be taking on legal liability if they went ahead and moved beyond what the state has set as the mitigation standard.”
According to IHSA President Craig Anderson yesterday, the guidelines came without proper warning, saying that the IHSA was informed of the move of basketball to high risk level just 15 minutes prior to the governor’s announcement. The IHSA executive staff had met with IDPH personnel last Friday and provided a set of options for conducting basketball this winter in a safe manner. The IHSA Sports Medicine Advisory Committee (SMAC) offered additional mitigations, such as masks during play for players, coaches, and officials and social distancing on benches, that the SMAC believed would allow basketball to be played safely.
In accordance with the SMAC guidance, IHSA indicated today that practices can begin on November 16th with games beginning for boys and girls basketball to begin on November 30th.