IHSA won’t crown fall state champs

Postseason will consist of 1 round of regional geographic competition because of pandemic

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The IHSA announced on Monday its plans for a modified postseason state series of tournaments in boys and girls golf, boys and girls cross country, girls tennis and girls swimming.

The IHSA Board of Directors approved a plan that allows for a single round of regional geographic competition, but not the culmination of state tournaments or meets as in the past, because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The plan calls for the regional competitions to be held the week of Oct. 19-25, with the majority of the events taking place on Oct. 24.

The IHSA state series tournaments will meet the Illinois Department of Public Health guidelines as they relate to COVID-19. The IHSA will be finalizing and releasing details for the state series tournaments in the coming weeks, including dates, schedules, awards, structure and additional safety precautions.

“The health and safety of the student-athletes, their coaches and their school communities has been our priority from the start of the pandemic,” IHSA executive director Craig Anderson said in a statement. “Throughout the spring and summer, we looked for ways to reengage student-athletes with their peers and coaches, and our membership has shared countless positive experiences from that initial Return to Play period. We have found similar value in being able to conduct fall sports, and believe the participants deserve a culminating experience if we can offer it safely.”

As the coronavirus rapidly spread in the spring, the boys state basketball tournaments were canceled. Later, the entire spring sports season was canceled. Last month, the IHSA announced it would move forward with the four sports, classified as low-risk, in their regular fall seasons, while football, boys soccer and girls volleyball will be played between the winter and spring seasons (Feb. 15 to May 1).

The board on Monday also approved a $100 state series entry fee for each school entering a team or individual for the fall sports. The last time the IHSA charged an entry fee was in the 2004-05 school year.

The IHSA draws its income from postseason tournaments and was, like many businesses, hit hard economically by the pandemic. The IHSA’s bylaws allow the board of directors to implement entry fees if it feels necessary.

“The IHSA is charged with the responsibility of being a good steward of the association’s finances,” Anderson said. “The past few months have seen a significant reduction in the IHSA’s income, given the cancellation of the boys basketball state finals and the entire spring season. Financial challenges remain on the horizon in 2020-21 due to the limited number of sports currently classified as ‘low risk’ by the state, making the chances of conducting full state series tournaments unlikely at this time.

“An overwhelming number of school administrators supported the fees in recent surveys. Not charging entry fees has been a point of pride for the IHSA. We are humbled by the support of our member schools during this difficult time and appreciate their support.”

The board of directors will continue to look at the postseason options by sport and season as the year progresses to accurately gauge the allowable IDPH options and the most current COVID-19 data.