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J. Thomas McNamara

District 61 athletics are being affected greatly by the board’s decision to extend e-learning to Nov. 16 which prevents coaches from holding their allowable contact days with their student-athletes that neighboring school districts, who also are in e-learning, are hosting.

    This is the latest example of District 61’s board handicapping our coaches as they are falling farther and farther behind the districts they are expected to compete with this winter in Central State 8 basketball.  The Decatur Tribune reached out to District 61 athletics administrator Joe Caputo, Eisenhower’s Athletics Director Tim Gould and MacArthur’s Jason Crutcher for comments on the situation.
    Here are their comments, starting with the Generals Crutcher, who provided the most detailed explanation of the affects he’s facing, including not being able to interview and hire basketball coaches to replace the late Michael (Dubb) Williams and the recently-resigned Ron Ingram.
    “I understand that with our school having over a 1,000 students, it may not be the safest to bring them back to school now.  On the other hand, I believe we just be participating in sports and activities.  The IHSA and IPDH has set guidelines for sports, and I think if we follow them we should be able to have our kids participate. 
    “All the schools in our conference and our surrounding areas are participating in sports.  This covid isn’t going to go away anytime soon.  Our kids need something positive in their lives right now, and letting them participate would be a start.  Springfield schools are doing virtual learning but they can participate in sports, so why isn’t DPS. 
    “We have a lot of great senior athletes that could receive a scholarship in college to play but may lose out on that chance if we don’t allow them to play.  Tim (Gould) and I have been working hard at redoing all of our schedules for our sports programs to give our student/athletes as many games as possible. 
    “Winter sports start Nov. 16th, right now the district won’t even let me interview for coaching positions.  I need to hire a girls and boys basketball coach, assistant coaches, and a girls bowling coach.  We are behind every school as of now, no contact days for us with football, when all other schools are practicing.  If they allow us to play, which I hope they do in Nov., I could possibly not have any head coaches except for wrestling when the season starts, that’s CRAZY!,” concluded Crutcher.
    Eisenhower’s Gould responded, “All DPS athletics are still on PAUSE while remote learning takes place.  Remote learning will continue until at least November 13th.   Our winter sports have schedules in place and are continually being adjusted as situations change.  Basketball practice is scheduled to begin on November 16th under the IHSA calendar.  Our student-athletes participation in winter sports will be dependent upon a decision by DPS.
    The next DPS announcement on October 30th regarding the method of instruction for the rest of 2nd quarter may paint a clearer picture for winter sports.  As of today I don’t believe there is confirmation from the state of Illinois that winter sports like basketball and wrestling will be allowed competition as they are in a higher risk category than our current fall sports of cross country, tennis, and golf.
    Caputo briefly stated, “In regards to open athletic coaching positions, we may post positions but may not interview, recommend and/or hire until further notice.”
    I will have more on this developing story in a future print edition of the Decatur Tribune.

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