IHSAA failing to respond clearly, quickly to coronavirus threat


Photo by Nate Albin.

Gyms like the new FHS Auxiliary Gym sit dormant for now as uncertainty clouds the spring sports season.

Right now, sports do not matter. Being a sports superfan myself, it is something every sports fan needs to realize. Ever since Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert tested positive for the COVID-19 virus on March 11, most leagues have realized that playing games could endanger athletes, team personnel and fans.

One league not getting the memo on this is the IHSAA. Indiana’s high school sports organizing body has been moving at a snail’s speed compared to other leagues. After Gobert tested positive, the NBA suspended all-league plays that same night. The NCAA followed suit and canceled the men’s and women’s NCAA Tournament.

As all these cancellations occurred, the IHSAA held on to its beloved boys basketball tournament. Instead of making the move to postpone it as many others had done, commissioner Bobby Cox came out and said that there would be limited crowds. This made no sense. The NBA tried this and deemed it was not enough. The Big Ten Conference Tournament in Indianapolis said no to fans initially, but they too realized it was not enough. This was all happening as the IHSAA was sticking to their no-fan plan.

The best example for the IHSAA to follow is the NCAA. Both are leagues where the athletes do not get paid and are in charge of overlooking the operations of many sports for both genders. The NCAA acted very swiftly to subdue the coronavirus threat. As Cox said there would be no fans at IHSAA games, the NCAA was canceling conference tournaments.

Finally, on March 13, the IHSAA postponed the boys basketball tournament. It is a mystery why this took so long. While being a day off seems like nothing, a virus as infectious as the coronavirus requires quick action to be able to slow down the spread. Taking it slow with little communication like the IHSAA has done so far is not the move.

And the winter sports tournaments are only a small part of the story. Winter sports were essentially over before the coronavirus hit the United States hard. Arguably, the bigger issue remains in the spring sport seasons yet to fully get underway. When the NCAA canceled the NCAA Tournament, it also said there would be no spring sports championships.

The IHSAA is yet to say anything about spring sports. I am in a spring sport, and not knowing what is happening is incredibly frustrating. Right now, it is a period of uncertainty for everyone who is a part of a spring team. Just about every single sports league has canceled or postponed spring portions of their season. MLB has pushed back its spring start. The NBA, XFL and NHL have postponed the spring conclusion to their seasons. These leagues all stand to lose billions of dollars in tickets, TV deals and merchandising. The IHSAA does not have to worry about losing nearly that much.

Analysts such as ESPN’s Jay Bilas and Scott Van Pelt kept calling for the NCAA to take action on the coronavirus crisis. They called for quick action. The NCAA heard the critics; it acted fast and it acted in the best interest of the athletes.

So I will do what they did. Mr. Cox and the IHSAA, please be transparent about this process. Keeping the athletes in the dark about our impending season does not help anyone. The NCAA updated their athletes as more information on the virus came out. Do that. And while we want to play our sports, at this point, please do what is best for our health and safety. Value health over sports.