State agen­cies to de­cide sports reg­u­la­tions

Chicago Sun-Times - - SPORTS - MICHAEL O’BRIEN mo­brien@sun­times.com | @michael­so­brien

The tim­ing is im­pos­si­ble to ig­nore. On Mon­day, St. Louis-area at­tor­ney Thomas DeVore filed a pre­lim­i­nary in­junc­tion against the Illi­nois High School As­so­ci­a­tion and the Hills­boro School Dis­trict.

The move claims the IHSA’s re­turn-to-play plan, which in­volves masks and so­cial dis­tanc­ing, will cause ‘‘im­me­di­ate and ir­repara­ble harm’’ to the rights of stu­den­tath­letes. It also al­leges the rules are ‘‘the il­le­gal prod­uct of col­lu­sion between state agen­cies, [IHSA ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor Craig] An­der­son and the IHSA.’’

The IHSA re­leased a state­ment Tues­day that said it will ‘‘de­fer to the Illi­nois Depart­ment of Pub­lic Health, Illi­nois State Board of Ed­u­ca­tion and the Gov­er­nor’s Of­fice on all of its Re­turn To Play Guide­lines mov­ing for­ward.’’

This should re­move the IHSA as a tar­get of fu­ture le­gal ac­tion over the re­open­ing of high school ath­let­ics. It likely won’t change any out­comes, how­ever. While the vary­ing groups might have dis­agreed on some de­tails, the IHSA was al­ways un­likely to carry on with any­thing that the state board of ed­u­ca­tion and Gov. J.B. Pritzker weren’t on board with.

‘‘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 in the IHSA state­ment. ‘‘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.’’

Up to this point, the IHSA had de­vel­oped the guide­lines and waited for the IDPH to ap­prove them. Teams are con­duct­ing lim­ited work­outs dur­ing Phase 4 of Illi­nois’ re­open­ing 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,’’ An­der­son said in the state­ment. ‘‘Some of the rec­om­men­da­tions by [the IHSA] 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 202021 school year.’’


The IHSA says it no longer will de­ter­mine when sports can move from one phase to the next.

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