BLOOMINGTON — There will be no chances for high school athletes to call themselves state champions this fall.
Regional champs will have to do.
The Illinois High School Association announced Monday approval of a plan to conduct modified postseason state series tournaments in boys and girls golf, boys and girls cross country, girls swimming and girls tennis.
The approved plan allows for a single round of regional geographic competition to be conducted the week of October 19-25, with the majority of the events expected to be held on Saturday, October 24.
“The health and safety of the student-athletes, their coaches, and their school communities has been our priority from the start of the pandemic,” said IHSA Executive Director Craig Anderson. “Throughout the spring and summer, we looked for ways to reengage student-athletes with their peers and coaches, and our membership has shared countless positive experiences from that initial ‘return to play’ period.
"We have found similar value in being able to conduct fall sports, and believe the participants deserve a culminating experience if we can offer it safely.”
The IHSA Board of Directors met virtually for their regularly scheduled meeting Monday, where it approved the modified state tournaments plan.
The boys state golf tournaments — Class 1A (Prairie Vista), 2A (Weibring Golf Club) and 3A (The Den at Fox Creek) — were scheduled in Bloomington-Normal on Oct. 16-17. The girls state golf tournament — Class 1A (Red Tail Run) and 2A (Hickory Point) — was on the same weekend in Decatur.
The IHSA will be finalizing and releasing details for each fall state series tournament in the coming weeks, including dates, schedules, awards, structure and additional safety precautions.
"Nothing really catches you off guard anymore," said U High boys golf coach Darrin York. "Even when they released the early-on plan, it sounded like they were going with a limited number of rounds in postseason anyway. We hoped maybe there was going to be a little more creativity which would have given it a little more state feel even if you had to readjust regions or whatever.
"But they (the IHSA) are in a tough spot, and they did what they felt they needed to do to be in the best interest of the kids and the coaches."
The state series tournaments will meet all Illinois Department of Public Health guidelines as it relates to COVID-19, according to an IHSA release.
The Board said it will continue to look at the postseason options by sport and season as the school year progresses so it can access the allowable IDPH options and most current COVID-19 data.
“Interscholastic sports, like the IHSA and IESA (Illinois Elementary School Association), have rightfully followed stricter return to play guidance than non-school events since the start of the summer,” said Anderson. “While we understand and appreciate the frustration felt by high school coaches due to the stricter guidance, we also recognize the need for that added guidance, even though it may create more challenges for us.
"There is a responsibility that exists within the school setting to create a safer environment for the community as a whole, while non-school competitions are often conducted without any standardized safety protocols.”
The IHSA Board also approved a $100 state series entry fee for any school entering a team or individual in any of the fall sports. The last time the IHSA charged tournament entry fees was in the 2004-05 school year.
“An overwhelming number of school administrators supported the fees in recent surveys,” said Anderson. “Not charging entry fees has been a point of pride for the IHSA. We are humbled by the support of our member schools during this difficult time, and appreciative of their support.”
In other action, the IHSA Board approved a recommendation for the Girls Softball State Finals to move to the Louisville Slugger Complex in Peoria beginning in 2021 through 2005.
The Eastside Centre in East Peoria, which has hosted the state finals since 2001, also submitted a bid along with Chicago Bandits Stadium in Rosemont, the Rantoul Family Sports Complex and Southern Illinois University.
PHOTOS: Girls state golf
Contact Jim Benson at (309) 820-3404. Follow him on Twitter: @pg_benson