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In call with IHSA, 62% of ADs say they are 'uncertain' if they will play basketball

'Everybody is in limbo' one AD says

Plano's Griffin Cross (22) puts up a shot between Sycamore defenders Jackson Johnson (33) and Brody Armstrong (13) during a varsity boys basketball game at Plano High School on Feb. 28.
Plano's Griffin Cross (22) puts up a shot between Sycamore defenders Jackson Johnson (33) and Brody Armstrong (13) during a varsity boys basketball game at Plano High School on Feb. 28.

The Illinois High School Association held a Zoom call on Monday afternoon with close to 400 athletic directors from the Illinois Athletic Directors Association who were polled on if they would play basketball this winter, multiple sources have confirmed.

In the poll of ADs in Monday's Zoom call, just 9% said they would play basketball as scheduled, 29% said no and another 62% were unsure.

The IHSA Board of Directors last week made the stunning vote to move forward with the basketball season as scheduled, with practice starting Nov. 16 and games Nov. 30. This contradicts the decisions made by Gov. JB Pritzker and the Illinois Department of Public Health. Pritzker announced last Tuesday that basketball had been moved to a "higher risk" sport designation and delayed indefinitely, then countered the IHSA's vote with a statement on Thursday that basketball would be moved to the spring.

But the IHSA disagrees, a tug-of-war between state governmental bodies that leaves the decision in the hands of individual school districts.

Brent Grisham, Assistant Principal for Activities at Pleasant Plains outside Springfield, tweeted Monday that "The feedback is insurance companies won't cover schools who play."

"Many schools are still doing their homework," Grisham tweeted. "Unsure doesn't mean no, and nobody can speak for insurance companies. But apparently some have made a stance. I wonder if Illinois is the only state where the two main governing bodies are in disagreement?"

The Chicago Public League last Thursday announced that it would postpone basketball to the spring, siding with Pritzker and the IDPH. One AD who voted no in Monday's poll said it was "because of liability and because it's putting too many people in harm's way, I guess."

"Everybody is in limbo," Plano AD Jim Schmidt said. "The IHSA is saying one thing, the Illinois school board is saying another and people ask questions. Now are superintendents going to allow basketball to happen if ISBE won't agree to it? The question is, can we pose a waiver to allow parents to choose? Somebody still has to take on the liability. I don't know if a waiver can take away the liability. That's where we are at."

Schmidt said that he has talked to his superintendent, who is checking with lawyers to see what they can do. Schmidt said that most schools are in "wait and see" mode, and most will plan to start practice on Nov. 16 as Plano does and "hopefully we will have more guidance by then."

"As ADs we are tired of not being able to give answers," Schmidt said. "Parents want to know what is going on. I hate that everybody is in limbo and we can't answer questions. Everybody is looking into this at their local level. It would be nice if we could get a blanket statement."

DeKalb AD Peter Goff agreed that right now "we're all in a holding pattern."

"Hopefully we can get people to get to the table and work this out for the kids," Goff said. "We have to do what is best for the safety of the kids, but you really also have to look at the mental status of our kids and make sure that is met.

"I think we have followed all the protocols of what goes on inside our building, we have followed the letter of the law and we've done a great job of keeping kids safe when they're with us. I hope we get to play, and hope we get to play safely."

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