New IHSAA commish confident, but nimble for fall sports return

INDIANAPOLIS (Network Indiana) — Bobby Cox, the commissioner of the Indiana High School Athletic Association, is retiring later this summer. His final season with the IHSAA has been tough, having to cancel the boys basketball postseason tournament in March because of the coronavirus pandemic, and being forced to wipe away the entire spring season.

However, the man who will replace him, Paul Neidig, is already hard at work with the IHSAA’s three-phase plan to return to high school sports this fall.

“I think I’m very confident, but I also say we need to be nimble.” Neidig told Inside Indiana Business. “This COVID-19 is a new path for us. We don’t know all the ins and outs of it yet, but I’m confident we will return to the field in the fall.”

The IHSAA teamed up with the Indiana Department of Education to form a three-phase plan for a fall sports season to begin.

“We’re an education-based entity,” Neidig explained. “If education doesn’t happen, then we don’t have sports. We need to keep that first and foremost.”

The plan that the association announced a couple weeks ago allows teams to meet back up on school property starting July 6. Neidig says that’s when coaches can start having their athletes lift weights and do other conditioning, with some restrictions. For example, weight rooms can only be at 50% capacity at one time. Those restrictions will be lifted on July 20. That’s when Phase Two begins, and teams can officially start practices.

On August 3, girls golf, which normally starts earlier than other fall sports, can begin competition. All other sports, like football, volleyball, soccer, and cross country, will start competition on August 15.

“Our hope is that if we continue on this path, and something doesn’t change, then we will return to the football field on Friday night, or the soccer field, or tennis court, or golf course, or what have you,” Neidig said.