Otto Hess loves football, and badly wants to be able to play this season.
But not in his state's current state.
Hess, an Oswego senior lineman who is committed to play collegiately at Boston College, had trepidation about forging ahead with a fall season as coronavirus cases have started to creep upward again in Illinois.
"If it's not safe, which I don't feel it is right now, I don't want to play," Hess said. "I wanted to play this year, but if they had gone with what Indiana and Wisconsin and Iowa had done with a modified season playing football this fall like normal, I would have been worried. I know people aren't wearing masks, are not using proper hygiene."
Hess had a layered reaction to the IHSA's announcement Wednesday that football, volleyball and boys soccer were being moved to the spring 2021.
That switch was one element of a modified sports schedule for the 2020-2021 school year. Other fall sports such as golf, tennis, cross country and girls swimming will remain in the fall, Aug. 10-Oct. 24. Winter sports such as basketball 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.
While Hess was relieved for himself, he felt for teammates like Anthony Cikauskas and Aidan Tweedy who are still working their way through the recruiting process, and will do so without fall film.
"Their recruiting process is going to have to change; it's hard to judge what is going to happen," Hess said. "I want a season, but I don't need it. I wrap my head around people that need a season."
Thirty-eight states are planning to play football in the fall, including Wisconsin, Iowa, Indiana and Missouri. California has moved to December or January.
Oswego East football coach Tyson LeBlanc agreed with the decision to move the season to 2021, rather than attempt to play a truncated fall schedule. To in part address the issue with uncommitted players the Wolves had a combine this week, filmed it and will send to college coaches.
"I think it's the right decision," LeBlanc said. "Like any other football coach or player or parent you want to play now. The concern I would have is you have guys graduating early, or will try to transfer to one of those states that think they can play. With that said, the way our state has been, as cautious as it has been throughout the process, it would have been a matter of time before they pulled the plug this fall. This is the best-case scenario."
The announcement from the IHSA came hours after Gov. JB Pritzker announced new restrictions for youth, high school and recreational leagues.
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.
"Some sports are safer than others, and we know the contact sports such as football and wrestling would be difficult to play right now," Plano athletic director Jim Schmidt said. "The last thing we want to do is start a sport and shut it down. This plan hopefully allows them to have a season without interruption. I like this plan. I think it is feasible."
The proposed schedule is not without its concerns.
Spring sports such as baseball and softball, which already lost a 2020 season, now will be operating in a much shorter time frame in a season that conflicts with travel schedules. High school volleyball and club volleyball will now be scheduled to play at the same time, and many girls could choose club.
Newark senior Madi Malone, though, said she wasn't surprised by the move, and considered it the best-case scenario for volleyball. Malone and the Norsemen will be going for their third straight state title this school year.
"We still get to have a season, and it’s further away, so hopefully everything (with COVID-19) is going to be calmed down," said Malone, who will play collegiately at UW-Milwaukee. "I’m pretty happy with the scenario we’ve been placed in. … I think it will definitely be different, and figuring it all out — practices and games and when club will be — will take some time. But once they get that all figured out, I think it will work out fine."
Sandwich's Sophia Datoli, on the other hand, was disappointed to see the season delayed into 2021. Datoli, who also plays basketball, thought the season would get pushed back two weeks or so, but still expects to play volleyball this year.
"It's kind of upsetting," Datoli said. "Getting ready for my senior year, we're ready to play. I didn't expect it to get pushed back as far as it did. I guess we just have to wait. We'll do a lot of conditioning and wait. I guess as long as we have a season we're fine with it, especially with it being my senior year."
It will not not exactly be business as usual for the sports still playing this fall, particularly cross country and its larger invites.
Sports this fall will compete in groups of 50 or fewer people. They also must compete within their conference or COVID region.
However, Yorkville senior Helena Kleronomos was relieved to still have a season. The All-Stater for the defending Class 3A runners-up had her track season canceled this past spring.
"I was definitely very worried that we couldn't get this season in; you miss two seasons out of your high school career, that's a lot when you think about it," Kleronomos said. "Me and my teammates wanted to have a senior season so badly. I'm sure it won't be the typical season, that we are looking for, Nike Cross Nationals has already been canceled which is big for us, but hopefully we'll still get some of those invites."