For going on 40 years, Christmas week in Plano has meant basketball to Jim Schmidt.
Schmidt, Plano's athletic director, has been to the Plano Christmas Classic as a student and worker. He worked the clock and scorebook since starting at Plano in 1989. He's run the tournament as manager since 2002.
Heck, he even wrote a few stories in the late 1980s for the Plano Record.
But the next chapter in tournament history will have to wait until 2021.
Schmidt confirmed Thursday that this year's Plano Christmas Classic, what would have been the 58th edition, has officially been canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Schmidt that he knew that the tournament was very unlikely to happen when the IHSA announced on Nov. 17 that it was putting winter sports in a "temporary pause" with Illinois moved to Tier 3 restrictions. The IHSA on Wednesday announced that it didn't expect to start low-risk winter sports like swimming and bowling until January. It further said that it hoped to reestablish contact days in January for winter sports that cannot begin, but no further announcement was made related to basketball.
"I was just hoping to give them a couple weeks to see if things could change and knowing that it didn't look likely that things would change," Schmidt said. "It was pretty much a moot point that we weren't going to be able to run this tournament."
Until basketball season was put on hold, Schmidt had worked to make the tournament a reality in the new normal of COVID-19 restrictions.
He had nine teams, including Plano, from within the school's COVID region signed up, eight of them from last year's field and also Yorkville. Teams were guaranteed a minimum of two games, but could play up to four. Schmidt also put together a four-team girls basketball tournament to run in the morning session. He also had an eight-team JV tournament with eight teams from Plano's COVID region, with sophomore teams getting in three games.
"We had officials, schedules, everything that we needed; it just didn't come to action," Schmidt said. "I worked on it for a whole week, setting up a schedule, getting teams, getting it all to work. We were set to go right around the first of November.
"I just feel bad for our kids. There will always be an asterisk in the Christmas Classic record books that 2020 we didn't have the tournament because of the pandemic. The 58th will go on to next year."
For Schmidt, who is retiring at the end of next school year, it is particularly bittersweet.
"I was telling my wife I can't remember the last time I have not got up on the day after Christmas and gone to the tournament to watch basketball," Schmidt said. "I have one left, so it's kind of bittersweet. I'll get a taste of what it's going to be like when I retire, I guess."