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J. Thomas McNamara

The Illinois High School Association Board of Directors tackled, that’s an appropriate play on words as the football season winds down April 23/24 weekend, a number of issues.

     Students also won’t have to mask any longer while they’re playing only when they’re on the sidelines, a three-year fee structure for member schools and a reduction in contact days.
    About masking, the Board announced updates from the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) regarding such for students competing in low-risk outdoor sports and activities.
Students competing in low-risk outdoor sports and activities are no longer required to wear masks while competing. In-season IHSA sports and activities impacted by this update include bass fishing, baseball, softball, tennis, and track & field.  Students must continue to wear masks in these sports and activities when they are not actively competing (i.e. athletes on the bench).

The organization also took some additional steps to help with its financial recovery by levying assessments on each schools based on their enrollment.

    The Board approved a recommendation from the organization’s Financial Ad Hoc Committee to implement an annual membership assessment over the course of the 2021-22, 2022-23, and 2023-24 school years.  Known as the IHSA Recovery Plan, the graduated fee structure is based on a school’s enrollment, which is generally a strong indicator of participation in IHSA sport and activity programs. Assessments for the 2021-22 school year will be collected through September 1, 2021. The graduated assessment structure follows:
Executive Director Craig Anderson explained the board’s decision and the organization’s need for financial help from member schools, writing, “The IHSA Board does not make this decision, or for that matter, any decision that has a fiduciary impact on our member schools lightly.  The pandemic has obviously been unprecedented and the financial impact on the Association immense.
    “The large majority of the IHSA budget is derived from gate receipts from postseason tournaments, most of which have been canceled or void of fans for the past year or longer.  Meanwhile, our mission has continued, as we maintain the majority of our day-to-day responsibilities for our membership, while also continuing to conduct many state tournaments in virtual formats with an increasing emphasis on returning to in-person events when possible.
    “We have been open and transparent with our member schools about our financial standing and the cuts and freezes we have and continue to make in order to be as fiscally responsible as possible.  Our financial ad hoc committee was representative of a diverse group of schools from around the state, and they discussed a number of different budgetary options.
    “They were unanimous in their decision that they believed the best option was the membership assessment fee structure approved today by our Board.  It is important to note that the IHSA Recovery Plan will be reevaluated over the next three years.  If we are able to reduce or eliminate future assessments, then we will look to do so.  We remain grateful and appreciative of all the support our member schools have provided us as we have navigated the uncertainty of the past year.”
    In addition the board approved a recommendation to reduce the IHSA Summer Contact Day period from 25 contact days to 20 for the summer of 2021 only.  Again here’s Anderson explaining the rationale for such a reduction which is a sound one, “Given the unusual nature of the school year, the IHSA Board and Sports Medicine Advisory Committee (SMAC) felt like a modest reduction in contact days would be in the best interest of the student-athletes’ and coaches’ mental, physical, and emotional well-being.
    “With so many sports seasons being moved to the spring and summer this year, and with several overlapping, SMAC believes it is vital that we attempt to reduce the wear and tear on our athletes to reduce overuse injuries and allow them more time to recover.  Many coaches have also been forced to coach multiple overlapping sports with no time off, so it is our hope that this contact day reduction will allow them to recharge as well.  The Board discussed further limitations suggested by the SMAC, but felt that each school could better assess its own programs and circumstances to determine their summer contact day schedule.”
    The Board approved a recommendation to finalize the dates and locations of several spring state finals.  A general overview is provided below.  Additional information will be posted on each individual sport page in the coming days.

Here are the baseball, softball and track and field state finals for the various classes:
Baseball State Finals
June 17: Class 1A at Illinois State University
June 17: Class 3A at Schaumburg Boomers
June 18: Class 2A at Illinois State University
June 18: Class 4A at Joliet Slammers

Softball State Finals
June 16: Class 1A & 2A State Finals at Louisville Slugger in Peoria
June 17: Class 3A & 4A State Finals at Louisville Slugger in Peoria

Track & Field State Finals
June 10: Class 1A Girls
June 11: Class 2A Girls
June 12: Class 3A Girls
June 17: Class 1A Boys
June 18: Class 2A Boys
June 19: Class 3A Boys

I will have more on this in a future print edition of the Decatur Tribune.

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