High School Basketball Nears Return After Phase 4 Designation
With central Illinois moving into Phase 4 of the Restore Illinois plan on Monday, high school basketball and other high-risk sports are cleared to compete. But a timeline for getting back in action remains undetermined for now.
“That’s the variable we’re not sure about, when the season would start or what time,” said Manual High School athletic director Tim Kenny. “It seems like we will definitely be playing; we just don't know when.”
When central Illinois moved into Tier 1 last week, low-risk sports got the green light to resume competition, but basketball was limited to practices and scrimmages. Now, the Illinois High School Association will work to get a plan in place for all activities to resume.
IHSA spokesman Matt Troha said its board of directors is scheduled to meet Wednesday to “lay out a plan” for the rest of the academic year and provide clarity on when basketball teams can expect games to begin again.
“It’s just a huge positive step for getting kids back to being re-engaged with their coaches and their teammates, and really having a chance to play all of our sports this year, even if it is going to be in kind of an abbreviated season,” he said.
One of the biggest challenges facing the IHSA will be trying to fit all of the winter, spring and summer activities into a tight school calendar.
“They'll probably cut it into three abbreviated seasons and figure out what sports are going to land when,” said Troha. “I think that they have a desire to try and provide a little bit longer season probably for the spring sports because they didn't get to play last year.”
Kenny noted the IHSA is facing a difficult task.
“It's going to be tough for them to just establish the schedule alone without bumping into one of the other sports,” said Kenny. “Overlap is going to be hard to avoid ... at this point this late in the year.”
Another aspect likely to be determined at Wednesday's meeting will be if the sports will have any postseason tournaments. Fall sports that were able to compete, such as golf and cross country, advanced the sectional rounds but did not have state finals.
“It will be interesting to see, with these condensed seasons, if they think it's worthwhile to try and do a state series or even a round or two at the end, or if they'll just kind of give the schools the length of time (for the season) and just say, ‘Hey, play as many games as you can.’"
Troha noted competitions also will have to limit the number of fans in attendance. In Phase 4, the maximum number of spectators will be 50, not including players, coaches, officials and other necessary game personnel.
He said teams in high-risk sports will only be able to schedule contests against other schools that also are in Phase 4, although he noted that, typically, schools from any given conference are in the same region.
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