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IHSA Announces High School Sports Plan Amid COVID-19 Pandemic: Football Moving To Spring

CHICAGO (CBS)-- The Illinois High School Association on Wednesday announced scheduling changes that will keep high school sports in action for the 2020-2021 school year, but in many instances with shifts to new seasons.

Football and two other sports will be moved from fall to spring.

The decision follows a special meeting by the IHSA Board of Directors on Wednesday. It must be approved by the Illinois Department of Public Health.

"This plan, like nearly every aspect of our current lives, remains fluid," IHSA Executive Director Craig Anderson said in a news release. "Changes may come, and if they do, we will be agile while putting safety and students first. It was important that we provide a framework today for our student-athletes, coaches, administrators, and officials to begin preparing for the 2020-21 school year."

The coronavirus pandemic has prompted the scheduling changes – including playing all sports over the course of truncated fall, winter, spring, and summer sessions and several team sports shifting to new seasons – including football, boys' soccer, and girls' volleyball, which will move to the spring.

IHSA boys' and girls' golf, girls' tennis, cross-country, and girls' swimming and diving will still be held during the fall and can start on Aug. 10 as scheduled. Competition will be limited to conference opponents and other schools in the same geographical area.

The announcement Wednesday came after Gov. JB Pritkzer announced restrictions on youth sports amid rising COVID-19 cases in Illinois.

Under the state's Restore Illinois Phase 4 plan, youth and recreational sports venues can operate at maximum of 50% of facility capacity. At the max, 20% seating capacity for spectators, with groups of up to 50. According to the state "capacity restrictions and group sizes will be reassessed based on the latest science and public health data on an ongoing basis throughout Phase 4."

"As much as I'd like to, this virus isn't something that we can wish away. So we have to act responsibly and collectively to protect the people that we love," the governor said. "There are certain sports, whose seasons can move forward with more limited restrictions tennis and baseball as examples simply don't carry the higher risk inherent in contact sports like wrestling and football."

Pritzker said there are three levels of risk that helped to determine which sports have what restrictions. They are categorized into lower, medium and higher.

"Think of these guidelines like a grid. Three risk levels of sports and four tiers of levels of play, based on current public health conditions at each of the four tiers, different aspects of play are permitted from no contact practices that includes conditioning and training at level one to full scale tournaments in level four effective, August 15," Pritzker said. "Lower risk sports like tennis, and baseball and golf can be played at levels one two and three, with activities like no contact practices teams scrimmages and certain competitive games allowed with DPH safety guidance."


The governor said "at risk" sports including basketball, soccer and volleyball can take place as levels one and two with no contact practices and team scrimmages allowed and higher risk sports like football. Hockey and lacrosse can be played at level one with no-contact practices, trainings, and conditioning.

The IHSA said the condensed sports seasons will be as follows:

Fall: August 10 to October 24
Winter: November 16 to February 13
Spring: February 15 to May 1
Summer: May 3 to June 26

Decisions on state series tournaments will be made on a sport-by-sport basis through the season. This could mean culminating state series tournaments after regional or sectional rounds or seeking other "non-traditional" ways of moving forward.

The IHSA Board said it has verified schools that are on remote learning can still participate in IHSA sports and activities, pursuant to decisions by local schools and districts.

At Nazareth High School in LaGrange Park, dad Tim Racki is the head football coach and son Jake Racki is the senior safety. They are hoping that spring football remains a reality.

"My mind is kind of like a season to season – you know, at least we can play; we can get on that field and be another team," Jake Racki told CBS 2's Chris Tye.

"Looking at a fall where I won't be on the sidelines is difficult," Tim Racki said.

But as CBS 2's Jermont Terry reported, while most student athletes are happy the season is not completely scrapped, some question what it really means for sports scheduled for the spring.

Many students have a lot riding on the season, including Joel Estrada, a senior at Solorio Academy High School at 5400 S. St. Louis Ave.

"I need a sport and educational scholarship to pay off college," Estrada said.

As he enters his final year on the team, he is pleased with the IHSA's decision to delay sports – soccer in his case - rather than cancel them.

"At least we will have a season, compared to last year - our playoffs were cut off due to the CTU strike," Estrada said.

The Chicago Public Schools teachers' strike last fall stopped the soccer team from defending its title, and this year, COVID-19 lingers.

"Our school community - we had one of higher infection," said Solorio soccer coach Adrian Calleros. "Rates we were a hot spot for a while."

For that reason, Calleros supports the decision to push back fall contact sports to February.

"This decision bought us like six months, which is great for us," he said.

But it leaves worry for athletics who already play in the spring.

"Will those be the actual start times or the actual time frames? Will there be playoffs?" said Marist High School coach Jordan Vidovic, who coaches both the boys' and girls' volleyball teams.

He admits his guys will start much later in the year, if at all.

"It'll present its own challenges," he said. "We'll be starting a season as the school year will be ending. There will be seniors who will be graduating that are just starting their senior high school volleyball seasons."

And of course, the reality is that all of this could change depending on how the virus spreads or subsides.

This is the breakdown for all high school sports:

Sport/Activity IDPH Risk Traditional Season 2020-21 Season Start Date End Date
Boys/Girls Golf Lower Fall Fall August 10 Oct. 17
Girls Tennis Lower Fall Fall August 10 Oct. 17
Boys/Girls Cross Country Medium Fall Fall August 10 Oct. 17
Girls Swimming & Diving Medium Fall Fall August 10 Oct. 17
Boys & Girls Basketball Medium Winter Winter Nov. 16 Feb. 13
Wrestling Higher Winter Winter Nov. 16 Feb. 13
Boys Swimming & Diving Medium Winter Winter Nov. 16 Feb. 13
Cheerleading Higher Winter Winter Nov. 16 Feb. 13
Dance Higher Winter Winter Nov. 16 Feb. 13
Boys/Girls Bowling Lower Winter Winter Nov. 16 Feb. 13
Girls Gymnastics Lower Winter Winter Nov. 16 Feb. 13
Football Higher Fall Spring Feb. 15 May 1
Boys Soccer Medium Fall Spring Feb. 15 May 1
Girls Volleyball Medium Fall Spring Feb. 15 May 1
Girls Badminton Lower Spring Spring Feb. 15 May 1
Boys Gymnastics Lower Spring Spring Feb. 15 May 1
Boys/Girls Water Polo Medium Spring Spring Feb. 15 May 1
Baseball Lower Spring Summer May 3 June 26
Softball Lower Spring Summer May 3 June 26
Boys/Girls Track & Field Lower Spring Summer May 3 June 26
Girls Soccer Medium Spring Summer May 3 June 26
Boys Volleyball Medium Spring Summer May 3 June 26
Boys/Girls Lacrosse Higher Spring Summer May 3 June 26
Boys Tennis Lower Spring Summer May 3 June 26


CBS 2's Chris Tye and Jermont Terry contributed to this report.

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