By Greg Bishop | The Center Square
(The Center Square) – The Illinois High School Association is moving forward with boys and girls basketball, despite state guidelines issued Tuesday that limited the sport, but local school districts will have to make the final decision.
On Tuesday, the Illinois Department of Public Health and Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s administration elevated basketball’s risk, effectively canceling the season.
“The updated guidance moves basketball from medium risk to high risk due to the close contact of players and indoor play,” the announcement said.
The Illinois High School Association, which governs high school sports in Illinois, said it was notified about the decision just before the governor’s news conference on Tuesday.
“About 15 minutes prior to Governor Pritzker’s press conference today, we were alerted that the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) has elevated the sport of basketball from a medium risk level to a high risk level,” IHSA Executive Director Craig Anders said.
In Springfield, Lanphier High School boys basketball coach Blake Turner said he broke the news to his team at the end of open gym on Tuesday. He said the loss of the season would be detrimental to student athletes hoping to get in front of scouts for the next stage of the their careers.
On Wednesday, the IHSA board approved a motion to move forward with basketball.
“[T]he Board took action to follow the guidance of the IHSA Sport Medicine Advisory Committee (SMAC) and will allow Boys and Girls Basketball to begin practices, per IHSA Return to Activities 2.0, on November 16,” IHSA said in statement on Wednesday. “Contests can begin on November 30th within an Illinois COVID Region or within a conference.”
“It will become a local school decision to determine if a school will allow their basketball teams to participate following the guidelines developed by the SMAC,” the association said.
“The Board remains considerate of rising COVID-19 cases in Illinois and understand the importance of adhering to safety guidelines for the good of all citizens,” the statement said. “However, the Board has not been presented any causal evidence that rising COVID-19 cases make basketball more dangerous to play by the IDPH or any other health organization nationally or internationally.”
Pritzker on Wednesday said he’s listening to national organizations and physicians to make his decisions.
“I would suggest that if there’s a difference of opinion, I prefer to air on the side of health and safety,” the governor said.
He said local school districts “know what the rules are” and they could take on “legal liability” if they go beyond what the state sets as a standard.