IHSA pulls the plug on state tournaments, but does not nix spring sports entirely

There will not be an IHSA boys volleyball tournament at Hoffman Estates in 2020. But the organization refused to rule out the possibility that some contests could be conducted later this spring or summer if the state government and health professionals deem it is safe. (Photo by Dave Ruggles)

Following Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzer’s decision Friday to close all Illinois schools for the remainder of the year, one astute boys volleyball coach reacted to the IHSA’s announcement that it would postpone until today a decision whether to cancel spring sports by referring to this conversation from “Dumb and Dumber.”

Lloyd Christmas: What do you think the chances are of a guy like you and a girl like me ending up together?

Mary Swanson: Not good.

Lloyd Christmas: You mean, not good like one out of a hundred?

Mary Swanson: I’d say more like one out of a million.

[pause]

Lloyd Christmas: So you’re telling me there’s a chance….

Apparently, there is a chance. A very slim one.

Tuesday, the IHSA Board of Directors met via video conference and voted to cancel all IHSA spring state tournaments and suspend summer contact days.

But they left open the possibility that students could participate in their spring sports in some fashion later this spring or during the summer.

“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.”

However, the IHSA did leave the door open … partway.  

“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, including if the number of days and dates that coaches can meet with athletes has been altered,” Anderson said.

“At this point, though, all that is dependent upon state government and medical leaders giving the go ahead for such.”

The IHSA also indicated it would waive certain eligibility restrictions if spring sports are conducted in some shortened form.

“The possibility of playing a spring sport game this summer is about closure,” Anderson said. “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.”

So while the IHSA will not conduct a state tournament in boys’ volleyball this spring, it did leave open the possibility that some contests could be conducted if Illinois health professionals give the “all clear.”

“Some coaches would be interested, if we get the OK,” said Wheaton Warrenville South coach Bill Schreier. “Obviously, there are a lot of variables.”

One variable would be liability issues should an athlete become sick or injured. Another issue might be conflicts with club volleyball.

“Clubs start back in June,” Schreier said. “They might be willing to give some leeway, some latitude. Still, you would need Nevada to turn the corner and allow those tournaments (The USA Volleyball Boys Junior National Championships are scheduled for June 27-July 4 in Reno).

“We’re in unchartered territory,” he added. “I would hope that both sides would work together and create an opportunity.”

Sandburg’s David Vales said that the IHSA’s statement begs more questions than it answers.

“Is the governor extending the stay-at-home order?” Vales said. “Will districts let their teams play? Who is eligible to play if schools are closed? Will parents let kids play? Will officials want to officiate? If it heads into summer, how will club be affected? Will teams have enough players to participate?

“I think that’s too many variables,” he said.

Stay tuned.

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