High School Sports

IHSA Director: 'False information' being shared regarding potential return of fall sports

The Prairie Ridge Wolves bask in the setting sun as they prepare to take on Huntley during their Week 3 game last season.
The Prairie Ridge Wolves bask in the setting sun as they prepare to take on Huntley during their Week 3 game last season.

IHSA Executive Director Craig Anderson joined Bloomington radio station WJBC-AM 1320 on Friday and shot down rumors that the IHSA, the Illinois Department of Public Health and Governor JB Pritzker are close to announcing a full return of fall sports, including football, girls volleyball and boys soccer.

"Well, there's an insider out there that really truly isn't an insider that's really providing some false information to the media," Anderson said. "And it's quite unfortunate. That's what I can share right off the top."

Anderson said there has been a single phone call by Dr. Ngozi Ezike, director of the Illinois Department of Public Health, and Dr. Cynthia LaBella, who heads the IHSA's Sports Medicine Advisory Committee. Anderson said the phone call was "simply a call for an invitation" and no follow-up has been made this week.

"While we hope in one facet it to be some progress toward us resuming more activities for our students that we're currently offering at the present time, there is no movement and no further conversation other than that request to join and support IDPH in that communication and how they would return," Anderson said.

The IHSA announced a new schedule for all sports in late July due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. While boys and girls golf, boys and girls cross country, girls swimming and girls tennis remained in the fall, football, girls volleyball and boys soccer were moved to a new spring season slated for Feb. 15 through May 1. Football games could begin March 5.

But the IHSA, IDPH and governor's office have come under increasing pressure to reverse course recently as other Midwest states proceed with fall sports. "Let Us Play" rallies are expected to draw large crowds Saturday in Chicago and Springfield.

Anderson said the IHSA has no affiliation with the planned rallies, but he supports the rallies' message and has shared a similar opinion with the governor's office.

"I think if they get the gathering numbers that I anticipate that they'll get at these rallies," Anderson said, "that I think it will demonstrate how collectively there's tremendous support for kids and their opportunities to return to practice and compete and earn or receive all the benefits of high school athletic and activity participation."

Anderson, however, acknowledged that time is running short to get a fall season in, and said a number of schools have expressed a desire to stay the course with the current schedule.

"It's going to get cold quickly within a number of weeks, and we have to be cautious about how deep into or beyond where we might ordinarily play football, which is late November when we're playing our championships typically," Anderson said.

"We haven't established a drop dead date where we've just gone too far. Some schools hearing of this information have reached out to us to say, 'You know, hold off. We couldn't get things together in time to get going this fall' and want us to hold true to the schedule that we established where football will be played in the spring. So there'll be a number of things for our board to consider if we do or would find an opportunity yet this fall to bring football back."

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