High school basketball in Illinois — along with hockey and wrestling — won't take place as scheduled as the state struggles against a resurgence of COVID-19.
After weeks of discussion, the Illinois Department of Public Health on Tuesday announced the three sports would be placed in a “high risk” category.
IDPH Director Ngozi Ezike said the sports are likely to spread the virus due to being played indoors, participants being in close contact and inherent vigorous exertion resulting in heavy breathing.
“The science, as we know it right now, applies in all situations,” Ezike said. “The more people you are in contact with, the longer you are together and the closer you are together, the greater your risk of getting COVID-19,” she said.
High school basketball, wrestling and hockey teams wlll be able to could conduct practices, intra-squad contests and training. But competitive play will be off limits.
The Illinois High School Association, which oversees sports at that level, had planned to have a board meeting Wednesday to discuss the winter season. IHSA Executive Director Craig Anderson issued a statement when the organization learned of the new state guidelines.
“In our meeting with IDPH on Friday, we felt we presented multiple options that would allow for basketball to be conducted safely by IHSA schools this winter, many of which are being utilized in neighboring states,” the statement read.
Anderson added the IHSA was notified about the changes only 15 minutes before the governor’s news conference on Tuesday.
Sports has been a hot button issue during the pandemic with many advocating for the competitions to take place, even holding rallies in support with chants of "Let them play." Parents and some student athletes have argued the lack of games makes it more difficult for Illinois players to acquire scholarships. But the Pritzker Administration has consistently raised concerns about safety to participants and observers.as the coronavirus spread.
This summer, Pritzker and the IHSA announced that the governor forced fall contact sports to be tentatively shifted to the spring. There has been no word on when the winter sports could hold competitive seasons. The issue could be resolved at IHSA’s Wednesday board meeting.
Under the latest guidance released by Pritzker’s administration Tuesday, high school sports like cheerleading and dance, swimming and diving, bowling and gymnastics will be allowed this winter with certain precautions.