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J. Thomas McNamara

     The Illinois High School Association (IHSA) appeared as the defendant in a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) hearing in DuPage County’s 18th Judicial Circuit Court this afternoon (Thursday, Oct. 1.
     The Honorable Paul Fullerton ruled in favor of the IHSA and did not grant the TRO. The TRO sought to rescind the IHSA Board of Director’s decision to implement modified seasons in the fall, winter, spring, and summer in 2020-21 in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. If it had been granted, the TRO would not have impacted the ability to play any IHSA sports, including football, boys soccer, or girls volleyball.
     Following the court’s decision, IHSA Executive Director Craig Anderson released the following statement:
     “As the Executive Director of the IHSA and the father of a current three-sport high school student-athlete, I want to speak candidly to all the student-athletes, coaches, and parents who were following today’s lawsuit, and have been impacted by the modifications to the IHSA seasons due to the pandemic. First and foremost, we know how important high school athletics are to your mental, emotional, and physical well-being.
     “While the IHSA defended itself in court, our defense was not a rebuttal against expanding the participation opportunities for high school athletes in Illinois. The IHSA has and continues to believe that we can safely conduct high school sports in Illinois throughout the 2020-21 school year. We are already conducting cross country, golf, swimming & diving, and tennis this fall, with a plan in place to run all sports in modified seasons this school year.
     “If changes to that schedule are forthcoming, we feel that the path to achieving them is through collaboration with the Illinois Department of Public Health and state leadership, as opposed to litigation.
     “Judge Fullerton ruled in the IHSA’s favor in the temporary restraining order, but had the temporary restraining order been granted, it would not have been a victory for IHSA student-athletes. Traditional IHSA fall sports like football, soccer, and girls volleyball would have remained on the sideline, along with all sports deemed medium or high risk, based upon the Youth Sports Guidelines set forth in state government’s All Sports Policy.
     “It is important to acknowledge that COVID-19 is real. It has had an immeasurable impact on our state and country. We want to see IHSA student-athletes safely return to the fields and courts, just as so many high school student-athletes in surrounding states have. We believe we can mitigate many of the risks of the virus and successfully provide these opportunities for our students.
“This lawsuit shines a light on the need for more data and transparency from IDPH and state leadership on what benchmarks need to be accomplished in order for the IHSA to conduct further sports offerings. We have and will continue to lobby our contacts at the state and IDPH levels, providing them with relevant data from across the country. If there are no changes by IDPH and state leadership, we will continue with our contingency plan of offering IHSA sports in the winter, spring, and summer. Our goal remains to provide every IHSA student-athlete the opportunity to compete in their respective sport or sports in 2020-21,” concluded Anderson’s statement.
     I will have more on this developing story in a future print edition of the Decatur Tribune.

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