Following Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker’s announcement earlier today regarding new restrictions on sports participation at all levels, the Illinois High School Association (IHSA) has made the long-awaited announcement for its 2020-2021 athletic year.
Fall Sports on the Move
Classified as a “high risk” sport in Pritzker’s Restore Illinois plan, the 2020-2021 football season has been moved to the spring. The season will start March 1 with the IHSA informing schools to prepare for a 7 game season with a potential regional-based playoff.
In addition to football, boys soccer and girls volleyball have been pushed back to the spring. All three sports will have their official seasons run from February 15 to May 1.
“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.”
Fall Sports Remaining
Classified as “low risk” sports, four sports will be allowed to compete in the fall: boys and girls cross country, boys and girls golf, girls tennis and girls swimming and diving. Each sport will have modifications to comply with safety guidelines put in place by state officials. Spectators are subject to Illinois Department of Public Health guidelines, which calls for 50 or less people, social distancing and the use of PPE.
“The Board believes this plan offers the most realistic chance for student-athletes to participate in interscholastic sports while balancing the challenges of a new academic setting and IDPH Guidelines,” said Erie High School Principal and IHSA Board President Tim McConnell. “We are an education-based athletic association, and school has to come first. By delaying the majority of the team sports in the fall, it will allow our schools and students the chance to acclimate to what will be, for many, a totally new educational experience. We will do our best to try to give every student-athlete the opportunity for a season this school year.”
Ramifications Across the Full Academic Year
While all typical winter sports will remain in place, spring will look very different in 2021. The shifting of football, boys soccer and girls volleyball to the spring will have a cascading impact on the rest of the calendar. Baseball, softball, boys and girls track and field, girls soccer, boys volleyball, boys and girls lacrosse and boys tennis will now compete in the summer of 2021.
Those seasons will start May 3 and conclude on June 26. Contests begin on May 17 and teams can only have a maximum of two competitions a week (except baseball and softball, which can have three if a double header is scheduled).
Respective state series will be determined on a sport by sport basis, with current IDPH guidelines dictating what will be allowed.
“I applaud our Board of Directors for choosing a model that allows every student-athlete the opportunity for a modified season,” said Anderson. “Based on our recent conversations, it is our expectation that today’s plan meets all of IDPH’s safety guidelines and will be approved.”
The plan has been sent to the IDPH for final approval.
Kevin Jackman reports for Naperville News 17