Glenbard West's Jalen Moore (23) runs the ball during a Class 8A first-round playoff game at home against Downers Grove South on Nov. 2.
Glenbard West's Jalen Moore (23) runs the ball during a Class 8A first-round playoff game at home against Downers Grove South on Nov. 2. — Sandy Bressner - sbressner@shawmedia.com

To Jalen Moore, spring season is better than no season.

Moore, a Glenbard West senior, has played football his whole life. But he was scared that it would be taken away.

So Wednesday's news was a relief.

The IHSA announced that football, girls volleyball and boys soccer were being moved from the fall to spring 2021, part of a reshuffled 2020-2021 sports calendar. Football would start Feb. 15 under the new plan, although the first contests cannot be held until March 5.

"I was very worried that we wouldn't have a season, thinking how everything would be different," Moore said. "I'm glad that we are still able to have a season in the spring. It's probably the best option to ensure that everybody stays safe. I'd rather have something in the spring than nothing at all. At least we have a season."

Moore's was among mixed reactions across multiple sports to the IHSA's much-anticipated decision as the state grapples with moving forward amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Other fall sports such as golf, girls tennis, cross country and girls swimming will remain in the fall, Aug. 10-Oct. 24. Winter sports such as basketball, boys swimming, girls gymnastics and wrestling will run from Nov. 16 to Feb. 13, with football, boys soccer, girls volleyball, girls badminton, boys gymnastics and water polo competing from Feb. 15 until May 1.

Baseball, softball, track and field, girls soccer, boys volleyball, lacrosse and boys tennis will compete from May 3 to June 26, as the IHSA squeezes a four-season calendar into what is usually a three-season format. The status of state tournaments remain uncertain.

Thirty-eight states are planning to play football in the fall, including Wisconsin, Iowa, Indiana and Missouri. California has moved to December or January.

Tim Racki, coach of defending Class 7A state runner-up Nazareth, felt the IHSA made the right decision to move football to 2021 – rather than attempt a potentially shortened fall schedule.

"It is so fluid daily right now, doesn't look like things are going in the right direction [with coronavirus cases]," Racki said. "I would much rather play this spring than roll the dice, go in the fall and then Week 2 you get a spike in cases and it's over. I was preparing for the worst, getting ready that there wouldn't be a fall and cautiously optimistic that there would be a spring season."

Reaction to the move was far from universal support.

Nazareth senior football player Domenic Virelli announced on Twitter that he was moving to Iowa to play this fall. Teammate Ryan Keeler, the No. 1 defensive lineman in the state, said he was considering a few options, perhaps an online school and continuing to train or going out of state to play.

Keeler was sympathetic to uncommitted football players still sorting through the recruiting process that now won't have fall tape.

"This is devastating for the seniors," Keeler said. "Most kids will not be able to earn the scholarship they have worked for this whole entire offseason; in the spring it will be too late. Football is what brings so many of us together and for us not to have that time during the fall is something that most kids will not be able to live without. It also hurts players who sign in December and February because most likely the college won’t want them to risk injury and play through May."

The IHSA in March had to pull the plug on the remainder of its postseason boys basketball tournament. Later that spring, it canceled the entire spring seasons.

Under this plan, the hope is for every athlete in every sport to have an opportunity to compete this school year.

"I've lost a lot of sleep over this. Not for me, but for these kids," York football coach Mike Fitzgerald said. "High school athletics is such an integral part of their experience, especially their senior season. I know this was a complex decision, an unprecedented situation. I'm glad they had the opportunity to make this modification and give us some clarity."

The proposed schedule raised concerns from people across several sports.

Girls volleyball season would now conflict directly with club season. Brad Baker, coach of defending Class 4A champion Benet, noted that the new schedule for volleyball is the exact time when colleges can recruit. The first weekend of volleyball season, Presidents' Day weekend, is one of the biggest club tournaments in the country in Kansas City. Girls very likely would opt for club over high school for recruiting and competitive reasons.

"They literally picked the worst time for girls volleyball," Baker said. "They could have run the boys season right then and then the girls after that."

Baker hopes different sides can come together to make it work. Great Lakes Region Volleyball on Wednesday tweeted out the idea of a split girls club season that would start Sept. 1. California has passed a one-time waiver allowing girls to compete in high school and club at the same time, which is illegal in Illinois.

"You hope that everyone realizes the situation we're in and comes together to give kids options," Baker said. "If that doesn't happen it is troubling for our kids; they might have to choose."

The shortened season for sports such as baseball and softball frustrated coaches and players alike who already lost a 2020 season.

Nazareth's Anthony Milano, who missed his first two years of high school baseball with a torn labrum, shared that aggravation over Twitter.

"Cutting our season short we miss 88% of our varsity games the last two years," Milano tweeted. "There are many different ways to go about this season to make it fair for everyone. The decision made was 100% unfair to us baseball and softball players."

The new fall season will hardly be like the old for fall athletes, particularly cross country and its large invitationals.

Sports this fall will compete in groups of 50 or fewer people. They also must compete within their conference or COVID region.

However, Wheaton Warrenville South's Samantha Poglitsch is relieved to just have a season.

Poglitsch, second at Class 3A state last year and an Illinois commit, had her track season washed away last spring.

She admitted she was concerned about cross country's fate, especially after Ohio lumped it in with contact sports.

"I was on edge because my team has a lot of potential," Poglitsch said. "I wanted the team to be able to experience cross country season, regular or shortened. At this point I'm beyond excited."