IHSA says it will defer to IDPH, ISBE, Pritzker's office on return to play guidelines

The IHSA said Tuesday that it will defer to the Illinois Department of Public Health, the Illinois State Board of Education and the governor’s office on all of its return to play guidelines moving forward.

The statement from the IHSA comes as the high school sports governing body was named a defendant in a lawsuit that aims to roll back the IHSA's return to play guidelines.

“There is an unprecedented level of planning for this school year due to COVID-19, and we have come to understand that there needs to be a greater consistency between the guidelines for returning to learn and returning to interscholastic athletics,” IHSA Executive Director Craig Anderson said in a statement. “Some of the recommendations by the IHSA Sports Medicine Advisory Committee and directives from IDPH have come into direct conflict with each other, especially as it relates to the use of masks by student-athletes. As a result, we feel it is important to let IDPH and ISBE provide a consistent direction for our membership moving forward. We will wait on direction from these organizations for further guidance on Return to Play plans for the 2020-21 school year.”

Previous guidelines that the IHSA produced in Phase 3 and Phase 4 were approved through IDPH. According to the IHSA’s press release Tuesday, IDPH requested updated Phase 4 guidelines requiring greater emphasis on masks and eliminating scrimmages in sports that require physical contact.

The IHSA mentions basketball, football, lacrosse, soccer, volleyball, water polo and wrestling among sports that are not allowed to scrimmage.

The IHSA is still awaiting approval from IDPH on the revised Phase 4 return to play guidelines. The guidelines include mandatory use of a mask for all sports unless they are played outside and can be played while social distancing.

ISBE released guidelines late last month for school districts on how to form their return to school plans for the fall 2020 term. Those guidelines include use of a mask by all students and teachers inside school buildings.

“We still believe there is a path to conducting high school athletics in the fall, like the majority of states surrounding Illinois plan to do,” Anderson said. “To make that happen, it’s important that we allow IDPH, ISBE and the Governor’s Office to take the lead on ensuring the safest and most consistent protocols.”