J. Thomas McNamara
There won’t be winter basketball for the preps until January at the earliest and that’s not a guarantee as the IHSA and state officials have not come up with a plan for them to play immediately instead of waiting until spring.
No one wants to face reality, but that’s what’s going to occur as Gov. J.B. Pritzker said Monday at his press conference that he would not be part of Thursday’s Illinois High School Association Board of Directors meeting Thursday scheduled to start at 830.
More discussion about the fate of the 2020-21 prep basketball season is expected.
Pritzker, during his Monday COVID-19 pandemic update press conference, responded to a question about his involvement in the meeting. The board last Wednesday announced it would extend meeting invitations to representatives of Pritzker’s office, the Illinois Department of Public Health, the Illinois Principals Association, the Illinois Association of School administrators, the Illinois State Board of Education and the group of more than 200 school superintendents who recently signed a letter to Pritzker addressing high school sports.
“There’s been a lot of interaction between IHSA and our staff, as well as IDPH, and so we’ll certainly make available our staff for consultation,” Pritzker said. “We’ve all been pretty clear about where we are with regard to winter sports. … We relied upon the best experts we could to come up with a plan for the winter. And, by the way, since then COVID’s gotten a lot worse.”
The Chicago Sun-Times’ Michael O’Brien reported last Thursday that, per IHSA spokesman Matt Troha, an invitation was sent that day to Deputy Gov. Jesse Ruiz and IDPH leader Dr. Ngozi O. Ezike.
Pritzker in late October announced that the IDPH’s COVID-19 safety designation for basketball was being changed from medium risk to higher risk, expressing his desire that basketball season be delayed until later in the school year as a result.
The IHSA board responded by permitting basketball to be played under numerous safety guidelines, leaving it up to individual school districts and other leadership groups to decide whether or not their respective teams would play.
Practices were allowed to begin Monday, with the IHSA board requesting that teams working out abide by IDPH guidelines leading up to the Thursday meeting. That means only non-contact actions are allowed at this time.
As of Monday afternoon, at least 18 area schools have announced they will abide by the IDPH’s guidance and not play basketball on the IHSA’s current timeline of Nov. 16-Feb. 13.
Dawgs, Trojans, Broncos, Raiders
Locally in Decatur and Macon County four schools were going to give it the old college try to practice this week according to IDPH guidelines.
Four coaches responded to the Decatur Tribune inquiry if they were going to practice this afternoon (Monday). The Illinois High School Association says schools could begin practices if they follow the Illinois Department of Public Health guidelines of no contact.
Central A&M’s Rob Smith, Cerro Gordo/Bement’s Brandon Willard, Decatur St. Teresa’s Tom Noonan and Maroa-Forsyth’s Aaron Ennis provided the newspaper with their plans.
The Bulldogs Noonan went into more detail than the other coaches did in their responses to the Decatur Tribune’s inquiry.
“We are bringing two groups (around 12 players in each group) in for shooting and skill workouts this week,” said Noonan.
“I don’t believe anything will change after Thursday’s meeting. It’s unfortunate that coaches, players, and fans still have no definitive answer or guidance from the leadership of the IHSA. They are delaying the inevitable. From my understanding St. Teresa will follow the guidance of the IDPH.
“Our program goals for this week include establishing an accountability system for our players, beginning the captain selection process, identifying player learning preferences, and starting a fundraiser. No matter the decision for the IHSA we plan to do our best to help our players improve this winter,” concluded Noonan.
Central A&M’s Smith offered, “We are as of this morning (Monday, Nov. 16).“
Cerro Gordo/Bement’s Brandon Willard responded, “We are not practicing until we get word from IDPH and ihsa that we can have a season. I am hopeful, but not optimistic.
Aaron Ennis said, ” Maroa-Forsyth is not practicing. We will have open gyms 2 days this week and then will adjust our plan based on the results of Thursday’s meeting.“
The two Decatur public high schools–Eisenhower and MacArthur–are in remote learning that has all buildings closed to extracurricular activities, including athletics.
I will be following Thursday’s meeting where the IHSA has invited representatives of Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s office, the Illinois Department of Public Health, the Illinois State Board of Education, the Principal’s Association and from the superintendents group to an 8:30 a.m. meeting.
I will have more on this obviously developing story in a future print edition of the Decatur Tribune where readers come to find the latest prep information.