IESA, IHSA could require mandatory masks for players

A proposal could require both IHSA and IESA student-athletes to wear a mask during a game. (Photo courtesy: WJBC/File)

By Blake Haas

BLOOMINGTON – According to the Illinois Elementary Association’s top official, no wrestling and mandatory masks on basketball players could be some of the changes announced this week.

With a decision expected within the week, IESA executive director Steve Endsley said while the decision is ultimately up to the Illinois Department of Public Health, changes would also impact the Illinois High School Association.

“Honestly, I think it could go either way. The proposals, the guidelines that the High School Association has submitted to (Illinois Deputy Governor for Education) Jesse Ruiz and the Department of Public Health, do include wearing facemasks at all times while games are being played. If that’s what it takes for IDPH to approve games being played, then we’re going to wear masks, and we’ll be able to play the games. But the chance is also out there that they will say no. That even with masks that we’re not going to allow games to be played.”

Last Friday, IDPH Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike, Deputy Governor Ruiz, IHSA executive director Craig Anderson along with IHSA Sports Medicine Advisory Committee member Dr. Cynthia LaBella and IDPH Chief of Staff Justin DeWitt discussed the fate of winter sports.

Endsley said this was the first time he talked with Dr. Ezike since the COVID-19 pandemic began.

“We did not get an answer in terms of one way or another regarding whether or not sports would be held. She (Dr. Ezike) does understand that there is an acknowledgment of a timeline that we need to know something by Wednesday.”

On Wednesday, the IHSA is holding a special board meeting to decide the fate of winter sports.

“The only one that I have a real gut feeling on is wrestling and my gut feeling there is that will not be allowed to be held,” added Endsley. “I can’t imagine in my wildest dreams that wrestling, which is an almost constant bodily contact sport that we will be allowed to hold our wrestling competitions this winter.”

Endsley added that current guidelines of 50 people or fewer in a gather could force no fans in the stands. Endsley said that the IESA’s budget shortfalls, it could force a pause of operations.

LISTEN: IESA executive director Steve Endsley spoke with WJBC’s Marc Strauss about the upcoming season. 

The IHSA plans to begin boy’s and girls’ basketball on Nov. 16 and games on Nov. 30. The IESA plans to begin boy’s and girls’ basketball on Jan. 4 and games on Jan. 16.

Blake Haas can be reached at Blake.Haas@Cumulus.com.

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