March 30, 2023
High School Sports

IHSA: No masks needed when competing in low-risk outdoor sports, membership fees return

Dates, locations set for many spring state finals

Sycamore players warm up during practice Thursday afternoon in the field house at the school.

BLOOMINGTON — The IHSA Board of Directors decided on a number of looming issues Monday at its April meeting, chief among them lifting the mask requirement during competition for many upcoming outdoor spring sports, implementing membership fees for its member schools and setting dates and sites for upcoming spring state finals.

The IHSA announced that, under Illinois Department of Public Health guidance, student-athletes competing in low-risk outdoor sports – such as track and field, tennis, softball, baseball and fishing – would not be required to wear masks designed to inhibit the spread of COVID-19 while actively competing. Players/competitors would be required to wear masks when on the bench or waiting to compete.

“More guidance will be provided to the coaches and officials in these respective sports from the IHSA in the coming days,” according to an IHSA statement.

Also, it was announced the IDPH recommends and will fund optional testing for high school teams who participate in high-risk sports such as football, lacrosse and wrestling.

In terms of fees, the IHSA will add graduated membership fees the next three years for schools based upon their enrollment, with smaller schools paying less and larger schools paying more. The fees will be reduced by about half each year of the three-year plan, with the first year the most expensive.

The state’s smallest IHSA members (155 students or fewer) would pay $875 over the next three years, while the largest (1,379 and more) would pay $3,500. Most schools would fall in between.

A statement from IHSA Executive Director Craig Anderson read:

“The IHSA Board does not make this decision, or for that matter, any decision that has a fiduciary impact on our member schools, lightly. The pandemic has obviously been unprecedented, and the financial impact on the association immense. The large majority of the IHSA budget is derived from gate receipts from postseason tournaments, most of which have been canceled or void of fans for the past year or longer.

“Meanwhile, our mission has continued, as we maintain the majority of our day-to-day responsibilities for our membership, while also continuing to conduct many state tournaments in virtual formats with an increasing emphasis on returning to in-person events when possible.

“We have been open and transparent with our member schools about our financial standing and the cuts and freezes we have and continue to make in order to be as fiscally responsible as possible. Our financial ad hoc committee was representative of a diverse group of schools from around the state, and they discussed a number of different budgetary options. They were unanimous in their decision that they believed the best option was the membership assessment fee structure approved today by our board.

“It is important to note that the IHSA Recovery Plan will be reevaluated over the next three years. If we are able to reduce or eliminate future assessments, then we will look to do so. We remain grateful and appreciative of all the support our member schools have provided us as we have navigated the uncertainty of the past year.”

The IHSA also approved sites/dates for the state finals of many of the spring sports beginning this week. Those include:

Track and field: Class 1A girls June 10, Class 2A girls June 11, Class 3A girls June 12, Class 1A boys June 17, Class 2A boys June 18, Class 3A boys June 19 (all at Eastern Illinois University Charleston)

Girls lacrosse: Semifinals June 17 (at Glenbrook South), finals June 18 (at Glenbrook North)

Softball: Class 1A and 2A June 16, Class 3A and 4A June 17 (all at Louisville Slugger Complex, Peoria)

Baseball: Class 1A June 17 (at Illinois State University, Normal), Class 2A June 17 (at Wintrust Field, Schaumburg), Class 3A June 18 (at Illinois State University, Normal), Class 4A June 18 (at DuPage Medical Group Field, Joliet)

J.T. Pedelty

J.T. Pedelty

J.T. is a graduate of Streator High School, Illinois Valley Community College and Southern Illinois University-Carbondale who is some 23 years into an award-winning sports journalism career.