No hoops for Notre Dame, as Peoria Diocese cancels season, opts to follow state’s COVID orders
PEORIA — Notre Dame High School athletics suffered a blow Monday night when the Catholic Diocese of Peoria opted not to play basketball when the IHSA's winter season starts in two weeks.
The Journal Star obtained a copy of the letter sent from the Diocese to its administration on Monday.
It was signed by Daniel R. Jenky, Bishop of Peoria, and Louis Tylka, coadjutor bishop of Peoria.
The letter addressed several non-sports functions in the Diocese, some of which are being shut down. The present public worship guidelines remain unchanged.
It addressed the basketball issue, noting that Diocese member high school teams will not be permitted to play in the IHSA’s winter season.
That includes Notre Dame, Rock Island-Alleman, Bloomington Central Catholic, Peru-St. Bede Academy, Ottawa Marquette, Champaign-St. Thomas More and Danville-Schlarman Academy.
Notre Dame boys basketball head coach Tom Lacher and athletic director Dave Rudolph could not be reached for comment.
Excerpts from the letter:
"The high schools located in the Diocese of Peoria will not participate in the Illinois High School Association basketball season for 2020-21.
“This decision is based primarily on the fact that the Illinois Department of Health has recently released guidelines which raise basketball to a high level risk of potential COVID exposure.
“We realize that in doing our best to address the ongoing serious risks of the pandemic that many decisions may not always be popular.
“Decisions are based on the principles of public safety and health. Our churches and schools are part of a much broader community that is currently facing challenging and unprecedented issues. We ask for your cooperation in adhering to these guidelines.
“Aware that the pandemic impacts us physical, emotionally and spiritually, we pray for the well-being of all in our community."
The governor's office last week re-categorized basketball as a high-risk sport under its COVID mitigations and announced no games could be played in the IHSA's winter season. A day later, Gov. JB Pritzker said he intended to move the hoops season to the spring.
The IHSA responded by defying that order and announcing its hoops season would begin as scheduled with practices on Nov. 16 and games on Nov. 30. It noted that a spring and summer schedule was already jammed with fall sports that had been moved on the calendar, and that overlaps would make it impossible for schools to handle.
The Diocese was the first in the Peoria area to opt out.
Peoria Public Schools could be the next.
The district has a school board meeting scheduled for Nov. 9 and it is expected the fate of the basketball season will be on the agenda.
"It's going to be a decision made at the school district level," Peoria High School athletic director Brien Dunphy said late Monday. "There are a lot of districts around the state who face a difficult choice. I would say some of them, if they opt out now, will have a difficult time pulling it all together to play later, like in a possible spring season."
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.