The Illinois High School Association has changed its policy on the webcast of high school playoff games, saying it alone will decide which organizations can broadcast playoff games and that it will impose a fee to broadcast those games.
The Northwest Herald’s high school sports website, McHenryCountySports.com, planned, and received permission from the athletic departments at Cary-Grove and Marian Central, to webcast both of Saturday’s local football playoff games. On Monday, however, the IHSA informed McHenryCountySports.com via email that it now would have to pay a fee to webcast Saturday’s 1 p.m. game between Cary-Grove and Crystal Lake Central and it would not be allowed to webcast the 5 p.m. game between Montini and Marian Central.
Those policies go against a settlement reached between the IHSA and the Illinois Press Association, State Journal-Register and Northwest Herald in 2008 in Sangamon County Court, according to IPA attorney Don Craven.
“They are restricting access,” Craven said. “They are imposing conditions on access that are different than were in place in 2007. The settlement states they cannot change those.”
IHSA Assistant Director Matt Troha declined comment, while IHSA Executive Director Martin Hickman did not respond to calls and emails requesting comment.
Craven filed a petition Thursday with the same court that heard the 2008 case, asking it to enforce the prior settlement. A hearing on the petition is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. Tuesday.
Until then, the Northwest Herald has agreed to pay the fee, under protest, to webcast Saturday’s game at Cary-Grove. On Thursday, the IHSA told Marian Central that McHenryCountySports.com would still not be allowed to webcast Saturday’s Montini at Marian Central game.
The settlement, signed by both IPA Executive Director David Bennett and Hickman, states that the IHSA must provide newspapers “access consistent with its practices at IHSA-sponsored events in the past.”
It also states “the IHSA will assert no authority to control or regulate the production, distribution or sale of any newspaper product.” Newspaper product is defined in the settlement as any product, including the website and webcast, provided by the paper.
The Northwest Herald and McHenryCountySports.com have webcast games, in the regular season and playoffs, since soon after the site launched in 2006 without being subject to fees or interference from the IHSA.
In an email to athletic directors sent Saturday, Troha said about the “new procedures” that “the IHSA owns the broadcast rights to all postseason games, and contractually, have various orders of preference with some of these groups in the event several want to broadcast the same game. Really no different than the Cubs and White Sox playing regular-season games on WGN/CSN … ”
The IPA disagrees.
“They are making the claim that they own high school sports in Illinois,” Craven said. “They keep comparing this to professional sports. The NFL owns its games, there is no doubt about that. The IHSA doesn’t. These are public high schools.
“It looks to me like the schools are sending them money. These are the school’s games.”