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COVID | SCHOOLS

Kindred: Will The Meeting, Part 2, to re-open high school sports in Illinois happen? Don't bet on it

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Normal Community's Jordynn Griffin looks for a teammate while being defended by Bloomington's Arajha Bellamy during the Iron's 57-39 win over the Purple Raiders in the Intercity Girls Basketball Tournament last year. Will the IHSA, IDPH and Gov. Pritzker finally get together and figure out a way to get high school basketball back on the floor?

Welcome to The Meeting, Part 2. It is Part 2 in name only because, as you recall, Part 1 never happened.

It was supposed to occur in November at the Illinois High School Association’s monthly convening of its board of directors. The plan was for IHSA board members/administrators to meet with representatives from both Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s office and the Illinois Department of Public Health.

An invitation was extended by IHSA executive director Craig Anderson, an olive branch to coordinate a path to when and how to resume high school sports during the COVID-19 pandemic. The branch was effectively snapped in two over someone’s knee, and it wasn’t Anderson’s.

Meet with the IHSA? Look for common ground? Hash out a plan?

No way. That was the clear message … delivered not in person or virtually, but as a no-show.

So here we are, a month later, and talk of another IHSA/J.B./IDPH summit. The IHSA trotted it out again Monday, releasing the following after its December board meeting:

“The Board plans to meet with representatives from IDPH and the Governor’s office prior to January to develop a timeline for the resumption of winter sports. Following that meeting, the Board will call a special meeting to finalize rescheduling for the winter, spring and summer sport seasons.”

Anderson, a good man in a terrible position, also said this:

“The Board reiterated on Monday that they plan to do everything in their power to provide a season for every IHSA sport in 2020-21. There have been no cancellations of any sports, or discussions about canceling any sports, thus far.”

The latter is positive news for athletes, coaches, parents, etc. Granted, they wanted to hear, “We’re playing … starting today!” Yet, hearing the IHSA maintain its commitment to play every sport, in some form and at some point, is reason for hope.

Here’s the rub.

It is all predicated on The Meeting, Part 2. Without it, we are stuck in the status quo. Or, as many would argue, the status woe.

You don’t have to be a pessimist to fear this IHSA/J.B./IDPH collaboration will never happen. Being a realist will do. If Anderson was unable to lure the Pritzker and IDPH folks a month ago, why would they agree to meet now?

The back and forth between Pritzker and the IHSA through all of this has been from afar — Pritzker during COVID-19 news conferences and the IHSA through news releases. At least once, the IHSA has been informed of a Pritzker policy change only 15 minutes before he went public with it.

That happened in late October when the governor announced the IDPH had bumped basketball from medium to high risk. Two days later, the IHSA said it would begin the basketball season as scheduled in November, leaving each school district to decide if it would play. The fallout was swift.

Pritzker said the next day he was pushing basketball to spring. By defying Pritzker and the IDPH, schools would risk losing state funding and face insurance liability issues. The stakes were too high for school boards and administrators. So the IHSA pushed basketball to spring.

Now this, another Hail Mary from Anderson for the IHSA/J.B./IDPH decision makers to gather in a room or on a Zoom call in the spirit of guidance, cooperation and resolution.

Who knows? Maybe he connects this time. Maybe The Meeting, Part 2 will occur, leading to a shared, clear vision for getting athletes back in competition.

And maybe you’ll find a million dollars in your mailbox.


Follow Randy Kindred on Twitter: pg_kindred

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