Illinois ADs react to governor's comments

  • While Michigan brought back high school football Friday and other states nearby continue to play, Illinois teams like Neuqua Valley will wait until spring for their seasons.

    While Michigan brought back high school football Friday and other states nearby continue to play, Illinois teams like Neuqua Valley will wait until spring for their seasons. Daily Herald file photo

 
 
Updated 9/19/2020 3:00 PM

It's not every day the governor of Illinois says something that directly impacts the lives and livelihoods of high school athletic directors, coaches and student-athletes.

But that's just what J.B. Pritzker did this week.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

When asked why Illinois football, volleyball and soccer players sit idle while surrounding Midwest states are back on the playing field, Pritzker didn't mince words.

"We have the lowest positivity rate in the Midwest," Pritzker said, referring to the COVID-19 pandemic. "Still too high. The states you are talking about all have very high positivity rates. Double-digit positivity rates in most. Those are states, fine, if they decided to endanger children and families in those states by allowing certain contact sports to take place that is their decision. It's not something that is good for the families and the children of Illinois."

That stance certainly is sobering for those hoping high school sports return sooner than later.

While Michigan, which like Illinois had flipped football to the spring only to reverse course and move it back to the fall, it's status quo for Illinois ADs.

That means a fall with just golf, tennis, cross country and swimming. And no postseason beyond one regional round.

"I am not one to compare our situation to another during this unprecedented time," Neuqua Valley AD Branden Adkins said. "Many have done this not only state to state but one community to another in Illinois. It is easy to give opinions on what should be happening. I am staying away from that as I do not have a medical background to give an accurate scientific thought."

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West Aurora athletic director Jason Buckley wasn't expecting a drastic change like Michigan made. Those teams in the Wolverine state kicked off their football seasons Friday night.

"Everyone, regardless of where they stand on the issue, is frustrated," Buckley said. "But as much as I would love to have our sports back in full swing now, we have a conference schedule for the spring season, which would likely be more games than we'd get if we opened things up at this point. To expect schools to mobilize and get up and running now just is not realistic, especially when the CPS is not even allowing schools to utilize contact days."

Pritzer also made it clear he's not interested in letting the IHSA make future decisions. The IHSA recently sent a letter to Pritzker seeking permission to resume control over determining the resumption of its sports and activities.

IHSA executive director Craig Anderson did not get a response to that request. After talking to Deputy Gov. Jesse Ruiz he was told he shouldn't expect a response.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

That didn't sit well with everyone.

"I would like to see tremendous cooperation between the IHSA, governor's office, and the state and local health agencies and the absence of political posturing," Barrington AD Michael Obsuszt said. "We want a return to normalcy, but one that would take into account both the physical and emotional well-being and safety of everyone."

The IHSA did announce this week that it is lifting the restrictions that limit upcoming winter, spring and summer sports to two games per week. That qualifies as good news for those seeking something closer to a normal season.

But right now, all that is allowed in a medium risk sport like basketball are scrimmages. And the IHSA doesn't have the power to change that.

"When it comes to basketball, I'm not sure what that will look like," Buckley said. "Given that all indoor participants currently need to be wearing a mask, I'm not sure how the season starts with that being the case. Hopefully, we'll see the restrictions eased up by then, but obviously, that is contingent on the overall health of our state continuing to improve, which is the most important thing.

"We are just rolling with the punches at this point and making the best out of a difficult situation."

Hampshire AD Mike Sitter said that with COVID numbers in Illinois trending in the right direction and the success of the limited fall sports schedule, he's very optimistic there will be a basketball season this winter.

Not having control over upcoming decisions like that can be frustrating. Especially when there's countless ADs, coaches and trainers in the front lines doing everything possible to keep sports safe.

But it's the reality, at least for now.

"The pandemic has caused much anxiety, challenged our rational thinking and tested our patience like no other event any of us had to go through," Adkins said. "The more we can stay together for the rest of its duration the better we will all come out at the end of it."

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