Radtke: At week's end, we're still left with discord over the high school basketball season
It's been a whirlwind week in the high school basketball world, to say the least.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced basketball is going from a medium-risk to a high-risk sport.
Pritzker, the department of health and the state board of education told the Illinois High School Association basketball should not be played this winter.
The IHSA board of directors, however, decided to give Pritzker the proverbial middle finger by deciding to allow schools to play basketball.
How much of the IHSA's decision was based on Pritzker doing the same is something only those behind closed doors know, but that part of this whole back-and-forth debacle can't be overlooked. What also can't be overlooked is the IHSA's decision July 14 to defer to the IDPH, ISBE and the governor's office on all of its Return To Play Guidelines moving forward. That came after the IDPH made the IHSA roll back its Phase 4 guidelines.
"Some of the recommendations by the IHSA Sports Medicine Advisory Committee and directives from IDPH have come into direct conflict with each other, especially as it relates to the use of masks by student-athletes," IHSA executive director Craig Anderson said then. "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 2020-'21 school year."
And now the IHSA wants that control back. To that we say, sorry, IHSA, you can't have your cake and eat it too.
The direct conflict Anderson spoke of in July got amped up this week.
• The IHSA board of directors responded to Pritzker's order by telling schools to go ahead with the season based on guidance provided by SMAC.
• Pritzker responded to that by saying basketball will be played in the spring.
• The IHSA then said, "We're going ahead with the season."
• Countless school superintendents have expressed frustration the decision whether to play is now on the schools. Those superintendents have also been vocal about the discord between the IHSA, Pritzker, IDPH and ISBE.
If schools go ahead with basketball against the state's guidance, Pritzker and ISBE have made it clear there could be liability issues, as well as loss of state funding.
Chicago Public Schools become the first to say they're not going to play basketball or allow wrestling this winter, adding that CPS will continue to follow IDPH guidance. Wrestling has already been moved to the summer season by the IHSA.
There has also been an alarming daily rise in the number of new COVID-19 cases statewide. The pandemic is not going away before the basketball season is supposed to start.
The IHSA and its SMAC committee have a different view of "safely" than Pritzker and the IDPH.
"Our board has not been presented any causal evidence that rising COVID-19 cases make basketball more dangerous to play by the IDPH or any other health organization nationally or internationally," Anderson said Wednesday.
"Our board represents our membership. That's why the board voted the way it did. Most schools want to start the winter season Nov. 16."
We're also appalled at the way Pritzker has treated the IHSA, which has maintained it wants to be a good partner with a governor's office that has clearly not shared that feeling, continually coming out with statements on high school sports seemingly without the common courtesy of informing the IHSA ahead of time.
"The fact that the IHSA has a different opinion, I mean, I've known that for some time about different areas of sports," Pritzker said Thursday. "We have talked to them on a frequent basis, gotten their opinions about each one of these things, and I think, most importantly, it's going to be incumbent upon the schools to make a decision for themselves."
So that's where we stand. Pritzker, IHSA, IDPH and ISBE all shoving the decision to play or not to play on schools.
Now is the time for these leaders to stop this nonsense.
Find a room. Wear your masks. Socially distance. And don't come out of that room until you have reached an agreement on the state of basketball this winter. That decision should not be left to the schools. If it is, in most cases, it will be made by boards of education, whose members are elected. Why allow this to become more political than it is?
No, this needs to be a united-front decision made by the agencies charged with those duties.
And if they need a moderator to help keep the peace, I'm available.