Governor J.B. Pritzker made a statement on Monday, Sept. 14 saying that football would not be moved back to the fall after a movement arose to move the season back to its traditional time instead of the new February start, due to COVID-19 concerns.
Pritzker said he did not want to risk the lives of the kids and their families by allowing contact sports to play this fall. Illinois has the lowest positivity rate in the midwest, but Pritzker said that it was still “too high” to allow contact sports such as football to play.
Illinois is the only midwest state that is not playing football. Michigan and Minnesota recently overturned their original decisions to not play football in the fall. Indiana and Iowa have been playing football without any change of schedule since their summer contact days. “Let us play” protests were scheduled for Saturday prior to the governor’s announcement.
“It is a difficult decision to make, there is no doubt about that,” Oswego Head Football Coach Brian Cooney said in an email. “I, personally, really hoped to see the Governor reverse his decision and move the football season back to the fall.”
Cooney isn’t alone in that sentiment, as his players also wanted to play the football season in its traditional timeline.
“I fail to understand how every state around us is playing and [we’re not because] it’s going well,” senior lineman Aidan Tweedy said.
The Illinois High School Association (IHSA) moved the start of the football season to February as a part of the new four season template to accommodate for COVID concerns. They also gave contact days to sports that traditionally play in the fall that are now playing in the new spring or summer seasons.
“I did not really anticipate the season getting moved back into the fall,” Tweedy said. “I just felt thankful to get the opportunity to practice and be with my teammates even if we aren’t playing.”
Concern still exists that if football cannot be played in Illinois, how it could be played safely come early spring.
“State leaders are being asked to look at the up-to-date data from other states already playing. This data, currently, is showing states that are playing football are not seeing the spike as predicted,” Cooney said. “Given what we know today and unless things change, I do believe we can safely play football come February.”
The announcement isn’t what the players, coaches, and fans wanted, but it is the one they got. Many are starting to adjust their mindset to accommodate just that.
“It definitely makes me upset,” Tweedy said. “However, we just have to take the cards we are dealt and make the most of them. I know that myself and my teammates have been grateful to practice and if that’s all we have to do all fall, then so be it.”
The first game for the Panthers is tentatively scheduled for March 5 at home against Joliet West.