Illinois Central Eight

Manteno’s Robbie Wesselhoff drives to the paint under pressure from Herscher’s Logan Lunsford during a game last season. Manteno and Herscher were two of four area Illinois Central Eight Conference schools, along with Coal City and Reed-Custer, who decided to pause the start of the basketball season Thursday.

As schools across the state continue pushing back the starts of their respective basketball seasons, the Illinois Central Eight Conference has been the latest wave of area schools to follow suit.

Herscher, Coal City, Manteno and Reed-Custer have all decided to push back the start date for its boys and girls basketball programs. This decision comes just days after the entire River Valley Conference put out a statement that they would be doing the same.

“We had a conference athletic director meeting on Thursday and not everyone was present at the meeting, but we had over half the conference there and everyone said verbally that there’s no we that we can play,” Reed-Custer athletic director Chuck Anderson said. “We didn’t put anything out officially from the conference, but that would come from the principal group if that were to be the case. I just don’t know if they will put out a conference statement or if it will be by school by school.”

Despite not having all its ICE Conference members present at the meeting, it’s more than likely all schools will come to a collective group decision much like the RVC.

“I don’t think there is anyone in the ICE conference is going to play,” Anderson said. “And the three non-conference schools I set up said they aren’t playing either.”

A big part in Reed-Custers’ decision to pause play was due to the new information given by the IHSA earlier this week. On Wednesday, the IHSA announced that any school planning to begin the season on Monday should adhere to the Level 1 mitigations from the IDPH All Sports Policy until the IHSA and Governor’s representatives meet next Thursday.

“Well first and foremost the new IDPH guidelines and the IHSA coming back out to follow those guidelines until they meet again next week was the driving force right there with no-contact,” Anderson said. “I’m really hoping we can push back the start of the season and hopefully get something in the late winter here. That would be wishful thinking.”

As for Manteno, the Panthers’ main reasoning for suspending play was due to all the liability issues.

“As much as we want to be out there playing, the liability that the schools are going to have to take on is probably the main factor as to why we chose to pause the basketball season,” Manteno athletic director Doug Wenzel said. “The longer that we’ve gone here in November the number of cases and hospitalizations aren’t turning in the right direction … and so this was the decision we decided to make.”

Much like Anderson and Reed-Custer, Wenzel and Manteno hope that the IHSA and Gov. JB Pritzker can come to some sort of agreement in next week’s meeting.

“The IHSA and state are hopefully getting together here on Nov. 19 and hopefully there will be some more collaborative guidance between the two that we will be able to go off of,” Wenzel said. “We would like to start stage 1 non-contact workouts as soon as possible and hopefully the IHSA can push the season back until the new year.”

With the season on pause, most schools are planning on to continue with its non-contact days twice a week in preparation for whenever the basketball seasons do start.

“Moving forward from here we hope to get into some non-contact drills and some individual ball drill work non-contact stuff as soon as we can,” Wenzel said. “And then we will wait for some more guidance by the IHSA and the state. And hopefully they can get together and get on the same page here and collaborate on something and put something out here jointly about the season after the Nov. 19th.

Coal City on the other hand released an official statement stating “Due to the placement of basketball as a high risk sport according to IDPH All Sports Policy, Coal City will presently not have competitive basketball. The boys and girls programs will conduct skill development and conditioning according to the guidelines permitted at this time. If and when the IHSA and IDPH come to an agreement on safe guidelines and regulations for competition it is in our intent to offer boys and girls basketball.”

Herscher’s athletic director Todd Schwarzkopf stated something similar in an email, revealing that the Tigers have also decided to await further guidance from the IDPH and IHSA before offering basketball this winter. In the meantime, Herscher will be conducting skill development and conditioning until there is a change in the guidelines much like the other area squads.

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