CHAMPAIGN — The prospects of high school sports taking place in the fall improved during an IHSA visit to tout Champaign- Urbana’s winning bid for the boys’ basketball state finals.

”Our students have been away long enough, lost an entire spring season,” IHSA Executive Director Craig Anderson said Wednesday afternoon outside State Farm Center. “So if we can and we have permission to have some activities, we’re going to let our kids compete.”

A short time later, the IHSA released a draft for “Return To Play” Stage 2, which was approved by its board of directors and sent to the Illinois Department of Public Health for review and approval.

IHSA leader Anderson

IHSA Executive Director Craig Anderson speaks in front of State Farm Center last week. The state basketball tournament is returning to Champaign.

Anderson on Wednesday also said “I don’t see it as an all or nothing at this point” when asked if all of Illinois needs to be on the same page with regard to reopening under Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s Restore Illinois plan in order for IHSA fall sports to occur.

If, for example, the Chicago region’s reopening was delayed but the rest of the state was in Phase 4 of Pritzker’s five-phase plan, other communities’ athletes still could compete.

“We may see some modified scheduling, some reduced seasons,” Anderson said. “But we’re going to do whatever we can under the restrictions that we’re limited to. To proceed with caution, but to get our students back to reaping from all the benefits of ... participation.”

The state’s four regions could advance to Phase 4 — which allows for the reopening of schools, with restrictions — as soon as a week from Friday. Under the current Phase 3, IHSA member schools have been allowed to conduct strength and conditioning events.

There are various significant changes outlined in the ”Return To Play” draft, in going from Stage 1 to Stage 2:

— “Gatherings of up to 50 individuals, indoors or outdoors, are allowed. Thirty feet of space must be maintained between gatherings of 50.”

The current limit on gatherings is 10 people.

— “If locker rooms are a necessity, capacity should be limited to ensure members can maintain 6 feet of social distance.”

Locker room usage currently isn’t permitted.

— “Summer contact days can begin when a school’s region reaches ‘Restore Illinois’ Phase 4, currently slated to roll out June 26. This will involve skill-specific workouts and the use of shared equipment,” which is not permitted under “Return To Play” Phase 1.

— “Hydration stations may be utilized to fill individual water bottles.”

Hydration stations, such as water troughs and fountains, currently aren’t permitted.

Guidelines are also included for restrictions pertaining to contests.

The draft, Anderson said, “helps me think that we’re ... trending toward having fall sports, which would hopefully lead us into, obviously, sports without a spike in (COVID-19 cases) or those kinds of things that would cause disappointment for all of us.”

clikas@news-gazette.com