The Illinois High School Association Board of Directors on Tuesday said it has canceled all IHSA spring state tournaments while leaving the door cracked ever-so-slightly for some semblance of competition this summer.
The decision to cancel the spring state tournaments comes in conjunction with Friday’s announcement by Gov. JB Pritzker and the Illinois State Board of Education that all schools will complete the 2019-20 school term from home via e-learning.
“We support the decision by Governor Pritzker and the Illinois State Board of Education, and given the logistics, we simply felt we could not conduct state tournaments that meet the expectations of our member schools this spring,” said IHSA Executive Director Craig Anderson. “As disappointing as it may be for students, it is the right decision for their health and safety, as well as for the health and safety of the general public, as we cope with this unprecedented pandemic.”
Among the IHSA spring sports that are affected include bass fishing, boys and girls track and field, girls soccer, boys tennis, baseball and softball.
The board also determined that summer contact days are suspended for this year, unless state government and medical leaders indicate such gatherings are safe. At that time, the board indicated a willingness to reconsider how summer contact might be conducted and whether opportunities for schools to conduct some kind of spring athletic events might occur.
“Once it is determined safe to return, we will provide a detailed outline to our schools on the plan for summer contact days and possibly some kind of spring athletic events,” said Anderson. “Including if the number of days and dates that coaches can meet with athletes has been altered. At this point, though, all that is dependent upon state government and medical leaders giving the go-ahead for such.”
Waterloo Athletic Director Mitch North offered remarks following Tuesday’s decision.
“While this statement from the IHSA does not come as a surprise, it still hurts. There were high hopes and goals for many of our spring athletes and those will not be achieved now. Students who are not seniors will get another chance, but they won’t get this chance with these teams,” he said. “I fully understand the stance of the IHSA and I appreciate that they left open the possibility of competitions over the summer should the current situation change and conditions improve enough to allow them to occur. My heart goes out to all the players, coaches and families impacted by this announcement and especially to the Class of 2020. I fully appreciate their sense of loss, as this would have been my last season as AD at Waterloo and I was excited to be along for the ride with these teams and athletes.”
The IHSA shared similar sentiments about the affected student-athletes and coaches.
“Our thoughts right now are with all the impacted students, coaches and communities. Especially the seniors,” said Anderson. “It will be difficult for them to find a silver lining in all of this, but we stress that even if they don’t get the chance to compete again at the high school level, they are better for having been a part of their respective high school teams.”
The IHSA said it will continue to communicate with and monitor briefings from state officials and based on those timelines, provide updates to its member schools as it relates to potential spring participation and summer contact days.
“The possibility of playing a spring sport game this summer is about closure,” said Anderson. “If we are able to offer this opportunity, no student-athlete would be restricted by having already practiced or competed with a non-school team.”
Columbia Athletic Director Scott Horner – the father of senior baseball twins Nic and Sam Horner – said the news was disappointing but understandable.
“Like everyone, you have a heavy heart for the seniors. Everyone’s health, though, is more important and although a tough pill to swallow, I think everyone understands this. This is our reality right now,” he said. “There is still a glimmer of hope that these seniors have closure, but until this pandemic is under control, nothing is for certain.”
Illinois schools first closed after March 16 to help slow the spread of the novel coronavirus.
Columbia girls soccer head coach Jamey Bridges expressed disappointment that his team won’t get a chance to defend last year’s IHSA state title.
“Obviously, we are disappointed for our players, especially our seniors, but we realize the health and safety of the athletes and their families are priority No. 1,” he said.
On Friday night, schools across the country turned on the lights at their football fields for 20 minutes and 20 seconds at 8:20 p.m., (20:20 military time), to honor health care workers, first responders, all other essential workers and the Class of 2020.
North encouraged students on Twitter during Friday’s tribute to persevere during this difficult time.
“Keep your heads up Bulldogs,” North said.
Horner shared similar sentiments in a Twitter video.
“It’s important to see the bigger lesson in what’s happening,” Horner said. “Your story is unique – unlike any other class that has ever gone through Columbia High School. You will never forget that, and we will never forget you. To the Class of 2020, thank you.”