PEORIA — The IESA re-instated its fall sports schedule Thursday afternoon in a special meeting of its board.
Baseball, softball, and cross-country regular-season play will now be permitted. Those sports will begin practices on Monday but, under Illinois state health protocols, cannot begin playing games until Aug. 15. Contests scheduled for earlier than Aug. 15 will be canceled.
State Finals will not be held in those sports. No state champions will be declared. Golf will not have a regular-season, but rather will stage a sectionals event in September.
Baseball and softball will play through a regional level during the week of Sept. 21. Cross-country will compete in sectionals Oct. 10-17.
"It's about giving hope to these kids to play," IESA executive director Steve Endsley said. "We're in a difficult time. The variables that are involved, we're standing in quicksand. We are trying to make a move."
The IESA on July 23 canceled its fall sports schedule, expressing frustration that it could not communicate with the Illinois Department of Public Health to gather data and guidelines before the board had to make its decision.
Those guidelines finally were presented on Wednesday by the governor's office, hours before the IHSA announced its plan for fall sports.
The All Sports Guidance document placed the sports of golf, softball, baseball, and cross-country in the "lower risk" category. Sports in that category can hold practices and interscholastic games. As a result of these four sports being re-categorized to lower risk and with interscholastic competitions being allowed, the IESA moved quickly Thursday to revisit its earlier decision and reinstate fall sports.
"We didn't cancel any sports after our meeting today, it's all been restored in some manner," Endsley said. "We want to give kids a chance to play. There are some conditions that we have no choice but to accept — some of these sports could still be in jeopardy if the government does not lift the no-contact mandate for competition."
IESA schools can start the school year under a remote learning format and still play sports. But if the governor later mandates remote-only learning for all schools, then all sports will be canceled. Similarly, if the region a school falls in under the state's health definitions falls lower than Phase 3 — Peoria is above that right now, in Phase 4 — then IESA sports will be suspended or canceled.
"I speak for the Board when I say they do not like to reverse decisions," Endsley said in a statement earlier Thursday. "In this case, the Board believed the information that became available after its initial decision on July 23 warranted a review of that decision.
"Ultimately, the Board approved the resumption of a regular season in the sports deemed lower risk and a plan for the remainder of the school year.
"It is important to remember that the 2020-21 school year is not going to be the same as previous years. We are hopeful that the remainder of the sports and activities will be held. Currently, the majority of those activities have been deemed as medium or high risk.
"The Board felt that the plan they approved provides direction and a blueprint should we be able to move forward.
"This is the world in which we live today where things change daily. If we want our student-athletes to have the benefits that the privilege of participating in education-based activities provide, everyone has to be accountable for following all mandates and requirements."
Here is that sports policy from the state:
And here is the IESA's new plan:
• Play shortened regular-season schedules throughout the Winter and Spring.
• Conduct Regional tournaments in each sport where the state series is a three-tier state series.
• Conduct Sectional tournaments in each sport where the state series is a two tier state series.
• It is possible that there will be no State Finals if guidelines do not allow.
• Activities that can happen virtually can remain in their traditional seasons.
• Activities that can’t happen virtually could potentially need to adjust their seasons.
(August-October traditional season)
• Boys and Girls Golf: Sectional tournament Sept. 9.
• Baseball: Practice may begin Aug. 3; games may begin Aug. 15; regional tournament Sept. 21-26. Season ending date Oct. 9.
• Softball: Practice may begin Aug. 3; games may begin Aug. 15; regional tournament Sept. 21-26. Season ending date Oct. 9.
• Boys and Girls Cross Country: Practice may begin Aug. 3; Meets may begin Aug. 15; Sectional meet is Oct. 10-17; season ending date: October 17.
• Boys Basketball: Practice may begin Jan. 4; games may begin Jan. 16; regional tournament is week of Feb. 22.
• Girls Volleyball: Practice may begin Jan. 11; games may begin Jan. 23; regional tournament is week of March 1.
• Wrestling: Practice may begin Jan. 11; matches may begin Jan. 23; regional tournament March 6.
• Competitive Cheerleading: Decisions on this competition will be announced later, including the possibility of a later competition date instead of the scheduled Jan. 23, 2021.
• Girls Basketball: Practice may begin March 8; games may begin March 20; regional tournament is week of April 26.
• Boys and Girls Bowling: State Tournament Series remains as previously scheduled.
• Boys and Girls Track & Field: Practice may begin March 1; meets may begin March 15; sectional meet (1A/2A) May 7-8; state date (1A/2A) May 14-15; sectional meet 3A/4A May 14-15; state date (3A/4A) May 21-22.
• Speech: Each school conduct its own contest within September-May time frame.
• Chess: In-person state tournament tentatively set for Feb. 26-27, 2021.
• Scholastic Bowl: State tournament series tentatively remains as scheduled.
• Music: TBD.
Dave Eminian is the Journal Star sports columnist, and covers the Rivermen and Chiefs. He writes the Cleve In The Eve sports column for pjstar.com. Reach him at 686-3206 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @icetimecleve.