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Sports Column | Bucky Dent: IHSA unlikely to get meeting before January

Sports Column | Bucky Dent: IHSA unlikely to get meeting before January

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Bucky Dent

Bucky Dent

Remember last week, when the IHSA was hopeful that it could score a meeting with the Governor’s Office and the Department of Public Health before the calendar flipped into 2020?

Well, based on an interview that aired on a Springfield radio station Tuesday morning, the folks in Normal might not want to bank on that meeting occurring before January.

IDPH director Ngozi Ezike told 92.3 FM/1450 AM that not only has a meeting not occurred, but that there aren’t immediate plans for a meeting. Ezike said that a meeting won’t happen until the state can present the IHSA with better-defined plans for a timeline to resume sports.

“As the mother of a high school athlete, I know that’s a really important issue,” she said. “I don’t want to sit down with them today, for instance, because I think it will be more productive when we can give them more concrete plans.

“It’s discouraging and saddening sometimes for the families and students when you try to set a date and you have to change it again. We hope that things will progress well over the coming weeks and months so we can give them a timeline that can stick.”

Translation: If you were hoping for a basketball season next month, you might want to scrap those plans. No matter how ambitious the IHSA’s intentions, they’ll cut no ice with a government that in every case has been more trusting of science and data over raw emotions.

The best chance IHSA schools appear to have for any kind of sports this year might come as 2021 rolls into February or March. In theory, the vaccines being rolled out to combat COVID-19 will have worked to the point where positivity and death rates drop to the point that Gov. J.B. Pritzker sees fit to give his blessing to “high risk” sports like basketball, football and volleyball.

Only time will tell if/when that happens, but Ezike isn’t subscribing to the theory that the Governor’s Office and IDPH have failed to communicate consistently with the IHSA. And for the record, that’s not just a theory, that’s reality.

“Everyone is a partner in this. Everyone has a role, everyone has a position,” she said. “I know how important this topic is to so many people. We haven’t had a meeting in a while, and that’s something we’ll work towards.”

Simply put, high school athletes and coaches feel like it’s another instance when state government is shoveling more lumps of coal down the chimney, even though erring on the side of caution is probably the responsible thing to do.

You can’t blame both sides for feeling the way they do, but in the end, this is the outcome we’re going to have to carry into the beginning of 2021. Let’s all hope it’s not an outcome we’re still dealing with by the time the leaves turn green.

TELLING SOME STORIES: Although coronavirus was the dominant story of area sports in 2020, there were still plenty of exciting happenings this year.

I’m looking forward to telling you about the top 10 in our weekend edition on Saturday. Our sports staff, as well as managing editor Alee Quick and retired sports editor Les Winkeler, were kind enough to give me their top 10s to help with the verbiage.

One thing’s for certain, though: I can tell you that every year, the reader ranks No. 1 in my mind. Without your contributions, I wouldn’t be able to give you my thoughts a few times every week.

So Merry Christmas, everyone, and don’t forget to tip your Santa with some milk and cookies. 

Bucky Dent covers prep sports for the Southern Illinoisan and also votes on the Wooden Award. He can be contacted at bucky.dent@thesouthern.com or at 618-351-5086.

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