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IHSA Defers To State On Return To Play; Limestone AD Calls Fall Outlook ‘Bleak’

The prospect of high school sports returning to competition in the fall could be in jeopardy, according to Limestone High School Athletic Director Brian Clausen.

The Illinois High School Association (IHSA) announced Tuesday afternoon it will allow state agencies to take over setting guidelines for returning to play amid the COVID-19 pandemic. In July, the IHSA first announced its Phase 4 guidelines, limiting physical contact and prohibiting scrimmages against other schools.

Clausen believes the outlook is “looking more and more bleak every day” and programs may need to take a step back.

“That's going to put a damper on things,” Clausen said. “In all honesty, right now as far as fall goes, I'll be surprised that we’ll be able to do some things. I think there are some sports that we can play without any problems.

“But there are some sports that are definitely in jeopardy of not having a season. And that could possibly carry on into the winter, too.”

In announcing its decision to defer to the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH), the Illinois State Board of Education and Gov. JB Pritzker’s office, the IHSA acknowledged some conflicts between its Sports Medicine Advisory Committee’s recommendations and IDPH directives regarding the use of masks.

“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,” IHSA Executive Director Craig Anderson said in a news release.

Peoria High School Athletic director Brien Dunphy said he’s been impressed with the work the IHSA has done so far in trying to get teams back in action.

“I’m extremely confident that the IHSA is working to get us on the field. I can't be more impressed with the work they have done,” said Dunphy, adding he remains hopeful fall seasons will proceed as planned.

“Anything short of ‘we're done,’ I'm very optimistic, and I think we all have to work that way. We have to work right now as if there's going to be activities next week and next month and this fall and this winter.”

Clausen admitted his program recently had a freshman volleyball player test positive for the virus and turned to the Peoria County Health Department for direction.

“They just they gave us some guidance and they did the tracing for us and told us which kids and coaches they were concerned with, and which ones they weren't worried about so much,” he said. “For the most part they did what they had to do and told us what we needed to do, and that’s what we did.”

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Contact Joe at jdeacon@ilstu.edu.