Prep Football

Pritzker stands firm on plan to push high-contact sports to spring

By Herald-Whig
Posted: Sep. 16, 2020 1:00 am

QUINCY -- A few days before planned rallies in Springfield and Chicago designed to support the #LetUsPlay movement, Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker dug in his heels and hardened his stance there won't be high-contact sports played at the high school level this fall.

It has coaches wondering what it's going to take to change his mind.

"I don't know what the standard is that needs to be met," Central football coach Brad Dixon said. "I think that's the biggest issue people have. Coaches, players and administrators, we're all willing to do whatever it takes. We just don't know what it takes."

During his Tuesday press briefing, Pritzker reiterated he does not plan to allow sports such as football, volleyball and soccer during the current phase of the coronavirus pandemic.

"I'm not willing to sacrifice people's lives or their health -- neither the children nor their parents who would be affected also," Pritzker said. "We are being careful about it, but I'm relying on doctors and researchers to give us the information. This isn't a political decision. I know that there are people who would like me simply to make a political decision to allow people to endanger themselves."

His firm words make it sound as if he will be difficult to sway.

That won't stop people from trying.

The #LetUsPlay rallies are scheduled for 10 a.m. Saturday at the James A. Thompson Center in Chicago and at 1 p.m. Saturday at the Lincoln Statue in front of the State Capitol Building in Springfield. Student-athletes, parents and fans are expected to take part.

"You look at Missouri and Iowa and the areas that have kind of been the model and then you look at the data and science and all the stuff Pritzker preaches and you kind of expect there may be a change," Quincy High School football coach Rick Little said. "It certainly doesn't look like that.

"With these rallies, it will be interesting to see what kind of information they put out there."

The theme expressed on social media is these rallies will promote giving kids a chance to compete.

"The reason you get into this business is for the young people and the kids," Little said. "You had a good experience and want to give back and make a career out of it. You look at the people putting on these rallies and know they have the same type of interest.

"You know the intention is to create opportunities for these young people."

Illinois teams have been working out and have transitioned into contact days, where they are allowed to work with coaches and small groups.

It's given them a taste of football.

"They'd rather be playing, but they're happy to be out there," Dixon said. "The last two weeks have been good to get back out there on the field and have a little normalcy."

It's producing the commitment and camaraderie the coaches want.

"I will compliment our guys," Little said. "I've been kind of blown away with the way they've bought in. Maybe that's because they've been so cooped up. Our numbers have been really good. With our contact days starting, they're back it.

"We've talked about it as a team and these are uncharted waters. If we do play in the spring, they will have gotten more football in than any team I've ever coached because we've been at it for a while."