High School Football In Illinois Moves To Spring; What Will Top Prospects Do?

Matthew Stevens

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. -- The state of Illinois will not have a fall high school football season and will attempt to have football in an abbreviated spring schedule.

Following the press conference by Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker detailing coronavirus guidelines for youth, high school and adult recreational sports, the Illinois High School Association announced Wednesday no sport is planned to be canceled but the alternative plan is to play shorter four-season schedules.

High School football in the state of Illinois is moving from a fall season to a shorter spring season that is scheduled to start on Feb. 15, 2021 and expected to finish on May 1.

With this announcement by the IHSA, it’ll be interested to monitor whether high-profile football commitments and prospects in the state of Illinois will either graduate high school and pass on its final high school season or try to transfer to a neighboring state for its final year of high school in order to play a fall football season. Twenty-four high school football players from the state of Illinois were selected on July 14 to the watch list for the Sports Illustrated All-American team for 2020.

The fall sports seasons (which include boys and girls golf, girls tennis, boys and girls cross country and girls swimming and diving) will be played from Aug. 10 to Oct. 24. Winter sports (which include basketball, wrestling, boys swimming, cheerleading, dance, bowling and girls gymnastics) is Nov. 16 to Feb. 13, spring sports (which include football, boys soccer, girls volleyball, boys gymnastics and water polo) will be Feb. 15 to May 1 and the new summer season (which will now include baseball, softball, track and field, girls soccer, boys volleyball, lacrosse and boys tennis) will run from May 3 to June 26.

“The Board believes this plan offers the most realistic chance for student-athletes to participate in interscholastic sports while balancing the challenges of a new academic setting and IDPH Guidelines,” said Erie High School Principal and IHSA board president Tim McConnell.

The plan for state tournaments remains slightly up in the air. IHSA executive director Craig Anderson said in a media conference Wednesday that the chances of hosting a basketball state championship tournament at the State Farm Center in Champaign in 2021 isn’t a likely scenario. He also warned that the dates the IHSA have planned at set on being final.

“This plan, like nearly every aspect of our current lives, remains fluid,” Anderson said. “Changes may come, and if they do, we will be agile while putting safety and students first. It was important that we provide a framework today for our student-athletes, coaches, administrators, and officials to begin preparing for the 2020-21 school year."

Each sport starting up and continuing on its current schedule will obviously depend on the state meeting certain coronavirus metrics based on state public health officials.

“These are incredibly important moments in the lives of our children,” Pritzker said during his media conference Wednesday. “When the multi-billion-dollar sports leagues with multi-million-dollar athletes are struggling to protect their players it is obvious there won’t be enough protection for kids on our school’s playing fields.”

According to Pritzker’s current set conditions, lower risk sports (tennis, baseball, golf) will be allowed to have local games. Medium level sports, such as basketball, can have no-contact practices. Football is listed as a higher risk sport.

The Sports Illustrated All-America site has published all 38 states which are planning to play high school football in the fall, including all five states that border Illinois. California, Washington D.C, Virginia, New Mexico, Nevada and Washington had previously already moved its high school football seasons to the spring.

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