MENDOTA – In July, the Illinois High School Association, per the recommendation of the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH), classified high school basketball at a medium risk sport in regard to the COVID-19 pandemic. Thus, the IHSA set the date of Nov. 16 for the beginning of the basketball season.
In late October, with a rise in COVID-19 cases in Illinois, the IDPH elevated the sport of basketball from a medium risk level to a high-risk level. Gov. JB Pritzker reacted by stating that since basketball moved to high risk due to close contact between players and the fact that it is played indoors, it would be limited only to no-contact practices and training.
However, the IHSA chose to ignore Pritzker’s guidelines pertaining to high school basketball and decided to follow the recommendation of the IHSA Sports Medicine Advisory Committee (SMAC) and allow the basketball season to begin on Nov. 16 as scheduled, offering additional mitigations, such as masks during play and social distancing on benches, that the SMAC believed would allow basketball to be played safely.
The IHSA stated that it will require all IHSA basketball teams to adhere to those SMAC mitigations, and allow local school officials to make decisions related to participation. The administration and board of education at Mendota High School has researched and consulted with district advisors in regard to this matter, and has issued the following statement:
“Within the last few weeks, several developments have occurred that have made the decision to play a basketball season a very difficult one. The purpose of this letter is to outline the issues the District has faced and to provide a position that the District will take at this time.
“Last week, the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) reclassified basketball from a moderate risk sport to a high-risk sport. As a result, the guidelines established over the summer by the IDPH do not allow basketball to be played at this time. The day after the IDPH changed the classification, the Illinois High School Association board of directors voted to disregard the IDPH guidelines and supported a basketball season starting on Nov. 16 as planned.
“Mendota High School has spent the last week discussing our options. We have consulted with our liability insurance company, our school attorney, the Big Northern Conference and several local school districts. Our insurance provider has informed us that our policy will not cover MHS if, in fact, some type of liability claim resulted from a COVID-related situation. This decision is consistent with about every insurance provider in the State of Illinois. Our school attorney advised the district that we are taking on several risk factors related to liability. These risk factors could have a significant financial impact on the district if a liability suit was brought against the District. This is compounded by the fact that our liability insurance would not cover any part of the District’s defense or any damages that potentially would need to be paid by MHS. The Board and administration, at this time, cannot put the District at that kind of financial risk.
“The District’s position at this time is to delay/suspend the basketball season until the IDPH and IHSA can come to a resolution on how school districts can safely proceed with a season.”