Judge Rules in Favor of IHSA, Return to Play Guidelines in Pandemic

High School Sports

BLOOMINGTON, Ill. (WMBD/WYZZ) — There won’t be any change in high school sports schedules for now.

A DuPage County judge denied a temporary restraining order against the IHSA’s ‘Return to Play’ guidelines filed by parents of student-athletes in suburban Chicago. The plaintiffs argued the IHSA broke its bylaws by devising a schedule that involved shortening seasons and moving some sports to a different part of the calendar due to the pandemic.

Judge Paul Fullerton ruled “what the Association did was within their bounds.” Even if granted, the IHSA said in a statement the current statewide sports schedule would not have been impacted.

The IHSA moved football, girls volleyball, and boys soccer to the spring and created shortened seasons for all of its sports in a July decision. The IHSA has also canceled all state championships for the 2020-21 school year.

“The situation we have calls for drastic times, drastic remedies,” Fullerton said in his post-decision comments.

IHSA Executive Director Craig Anderson responded to the ruling with the following statement:

“As the Executive Director of the IHSA and the father of a current three-sport high school student-athlete, I want to speak candidly to all the student-athletes, coaches, and parents who were following today’s lawsuit, and have been impacted by the modifications to the IHSA seasons due to the pandemic. First and foremost, we know how important high school athletics are to your mental, emotional, and physical well-being.

While the IHSA defended itself in court, our defense was not a rebuttal against expanding the participation opportunities for high school athletes in Illinois. The IHSA has and continues to believe that we can safely conduct high school sports in Illinois throughout the 2020-21 school year. We are already conducting cross country, golf, swimming & diving, and tennis this fall, with a plan in place to run all sports in modified seasons this school year. If changes to that schedule are forthcoming, we feel that the path to achieving them is through collaboration with the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) and state leadership, as opposed to litigation.

The Honorable Paul Fullerton ruled in the IHSA’s favor in the temporary restraining order hearing, but had the temporary restraining order been granted, it would not have been a victory for IHSA student-athletes. Traditional IHSA fall sports like football, soccer, and girls volleyball would have remained on the sideline, along with all sports deemed medium or high risk, based upon the Youth Sports Guidelines set forth in state government’s All Sports Policy.

It is important to acknowledge that COVID-19 is real. It has had an immeasurable impact on our state and country. We want to see IHSA student-athletes safely return to the fields and courts, just as so many high school student-athletes in surrounding states have. We believe we can mitigate many of the risks of the virus and successfully provide these opportunities for our students.

This lawsuit shines a light on the need for more data and transparency from IDPH and state leadership on what benchmarks need to be accomplished in order for the IHSA to conduct further sports offerings. We have and will continue to lobby our contacts at the state and IDPH levels, providing them with relevant data from across the country. If there are no changes by IDPH and state leadership, we will continue with our contingency plan of offering IHSA sports in the winter, spring, and summer. Our goal remains to provide every IHSA student-athlete the opportunity to compete in their respective sport or sports in 2020-21.”

Craig Anderson, IHSA Executive Director

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