High School Sports Face Uncertain Future For Fall Sports

By Anthony Jones

 

During the fall, the IHSA typically holds 9 State Cham- pionships for their fall sports. These include girls tennis, girls golf, girls cross country, boys golf, boys cross country, girls swimming, boys soccer, girls volleyball, and football. But as things stand at the moment, nobody can say for certain what the future holds for any of these sports.

One major question that will need to be answered is if the IHSA would allow certain sports to play, but not others. Sports such as golf would still allow for ample social distancing, but others such as football, tend to have over one hundred players present at a time.

A significant factor in that decision is certain to be the – nances. According to nancial statements released from the IHSA for the 2018-2019 year, over half of its fall sports cost the organization money. In total, those ve sports ran at a de cit of $217,856. Despite those losses, the IHSA still managed to pro t $610,379 from its fall sports last year.

Unfortunately for the IHSA, the sports that are profitable, will be the most dif cult to play under normal conditions. Foot- ball, which is their highest earn- ing sport in the fall and second highest overall behind only boys basketball, brought in a pro t of $618,379 for the 2018-2019 year. If it were not for football’s revenue, the fall sports would have run at a total loss of $8,197.

Another point of relevance is that two of the other four sports the IHSA made a pro t on in the fall of 2018, girls swimming and girls volleyball, are held indoors. With the added risks of having large events indoors, this draws

more concerns for the feasibility of fall sports. It is also important to point out that attendance plays a major role in funding these events. If attendance is limited, the pro t of all sporting events would undoubtedly drop, mak- ing it that much harder to still hold them.

If the IHSA decides to have fall sports, but limit attendance, it is still unclear what that may look like. One of the few points of reference is the plans the group had made earlier this year to hold their boys basketball champion- ships. At that time, the IHSA planned to give out 60 tickets to each team, but those games were ultimately cancelled.

One drastic idea that has been widely spoken about in Ohio and many other states is ipping spring and fall sports seasons around. Some have mentioned it as a ip for all sports, while others have spoken of switching football around with baseball and track. Supporters of these ideas believe that this would allow for more time before football and other fall sports, which are per- ceived as more likely to spread any illnesses for both its players and fans. One downside that has been brought up is that it would give an added risk that traditional spring sport athletes would miss another athletic season if play does not resume by the fall.

Whatever sports will be played in the fall, teams will need to be able to return to practice be- fore any play can resume. Most sports have an IHSA required heat acclimation period before they are allowed to compete in contests. If school facilities are not opened until later in the summer, this could force sports seasons to start later than normal and possibly be condensed.

In neighboring Indiana, their equivalent organization to the

IHSA announced they plan to return to team practices on July 1. They did add however that that plan is subject to change based on announcements from their governor.

Another question that arises is if games scheduled against non-Illinois schools will con- tinue as planned. Local football teams Edwardsville, Althoff Catholic, and East St. Louis all have scheduled games against Missouri for this upcoming season. East St. Louis also has a scheduled road trip against St. John Bosco, who was MaxPreps number one ranked team in the nation last year. If these contests are cancelled, teams will be left without opponents for certain weeks, which could result in them losing a shot at qualifying for state championships.

A similar decision to be made is if the IHSA will allow certain areas to return to sports before others. If some areas are allowed to return to competition first, making decisions on how that will affect entry into state cham- pionship series will also arise.

The uncertainty of fall sports in the state has already seen repercussions. The top football recruit in the state, J.J. McCar- thy, announced on Monday that he will be nishing off his high school career at IMG Academy in Florida, who was ranked 8 in the nation by MaxPreps. He cited the uncertain state of fall sports in Illinois as a reason for the decision.

Ultimately, the key to answer- ing all of these times is waiting to see what developments take place across the state. If ath- letic seasons are allowed to take place, even under restrictions, they will undoubtedly go down as some of the most memorable in Illinois’s long and prestigious sports history.

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