CHICAGO (CBS) — Parents and student athletes are crying foul as they put pressure on Illinois lawmakers and educators to reopen schools so fall sports can begin.
Despite the threat of COVID, youth club sports like soccer play on. But public schools around Illinois have passed on fall sports competitions due to state health guidelines.
This week, a group plans to level the playing field for students who depend on showcasing their skills on the field to score a college scholarship.
“Student athletes, especially those from the poorest neighborhoods, have virtually no chance to be seen in game action, and are therefore at an extreme disadvantage compared to all neighboring states with kids playing in the fall,” said plaintiff Dave Ruggles. “Scholarships will simply go to players college coaches can actually see in action, and that won’t include kids in Illinois.”
“So we have less videos and content for colleges to look at,” said one student athlete.
“There are kids throughout the Chicagoland area and the entire state of Illinois who rely on public school activities as a way to get out,” said student athlete advocate Joe Trost. “It’s a way to get to college.”
“Please let us play,” another student athlete said.
Ruggles and others plan to file a legal action against the Illinois High School Association on Monday.
“Bottom line is nobody’s standing up for these kids and we’re tired of it,” Ruggles said.
The hope for supporters of the lawsuit is that the legal pressure brings student athletes closer to playing contact sports competitively like other states.
“If it’s safe to do in Arizona, in Nevada, why can’t it be done in Illinois for these student athletes?” Trost said.
Trost said Illinois is only one of a handful of states now allowing the full range of fall sports.
He said more low-income families will lose out as others get more exposure.
“You go to Racine, you go to Kenosha, there are thousands of Illinois families every weekend going over – and those are the families that can afford to pay for clubs,” Trost said. “You are going to see massive inequities.”
“You don’t have that exposure,” said high school athlete Bryan Grimaldo, “and I’m relying on college to come out and watch me to get that scholarship to help support my family, and be able to be the one to go to college.”
But without fall sports, Grimaldo fears that goal is out of bounds.
The NCAA said there is more than $3.6 billion in athletic scholarships awarded to more than 180,000 student athletes, adding that only accounts for 2 percent of all high school athletes.
But it is a shot that some believe is worth taking, even in a pandemic.
High-risk sports are scheduled to be played a few months from now.
The IHSA said it is aware of the lawsuit, but will have no further comment until the lawsuit can be reviewed.
Meanwhile, Gov. JB Pritzker’s office said we must do everything possible to keep COVID-19 rates down and reduce the risk of spreading the virus at events outside the classroom.