Another H-F team now facing possible suspension

2014-02-21T16:15:00Z 2014-02-22T01:49:04Z Another H-F team now facing possible suspensionPhil Arvia Times Correspondent nwitimes.com
February 21, 2014 4:15 pm  • 

Homewood-Flossmoor’s boys basketball program is under investigation by the Illinois High School Association and could be banished from the state playoffs as the school's girls program was earlier this week, the agency's executive director confirmed Friday.

While the IHSA continues to investigate the girls program and coach Tony Smith for recruiting violations, a decision on how to penalize the boys for breaking an association bylaw regarding practices should come before playoffs start March 3, IHSA Executive Director Marty Hickman said.

“I certainly imagine so,” Hickman said by phone. “That gives us next week to wrap that up.”

The IHSA learned of possible violations by the boys team from the school, Hickman said. In self-reporting violations to the IHSA regarding its girls program, H-F administrators submitted out-of-season workout schedules. Those schedules showed virtually identical programs for the boys and girls teams.

Principal Ryan Pitcock, hired in 2008, noted in a letter to the IHSA that the off-season program had been in effect “for a span likely greater than 9 years.”

“They can’t organize their basketball teams in August, September and October,” Hickman said. “They can have a conditioning program, but it can’t be sport-specific."

Boys basketball coach Jim McLaughlin declined comment.

The IHSA barred the girls team from the state playoffs and ordered to forfeit its 21 regular season wins on Wednesday, just hours before it was to take the court in a tournament game against T.F. North.

Hickman also confirmed that three H-F girls players and their mothers claimed residency in a single-family home on Douglas Avenue in Flossmoor, but that the living arrangement did not violate IHSA rules.

“While it is a little odd, it is not against the rules,” he said.

Hickman lauded H-F administrators for their candor, noting that the agency has suspended similar programs for spring sports.

“Our plan is to help them develop a program that complies with the rules,” he said. “They want that.”

An IHSA ruling might not necessarily end the Vikings' season. Hickman said a penalty has not yet been finalized and could be anything from a warning to a suspension from playoffs.

In addition to violating season limits, Hickman noted, the girls also violated bylaws regarding open gym limitations and independent team participation. He said Smith violated open gym limitations by inviting players not yet enrolled at H-F to open gym sessions and ran afoul of independent team rules by signing in at an AAU event during the school year as the head coach for a team featuring 11 H-F players.

The IHSA has suspended Smith indefinitely. He is also still under investigation for possible recruiting violations alleged in a lawsuit brought against him and the school in January by the parents of an unnamed girls player.

“There’s still some question in our minds whether or not there have been recruiting violations,” Hickman said. “With regard to the residency, we don’t really have any issue. With regard to the larger recruiting issue, we haven’t ended our investigation.”

On Friday, H-F superintendent Von Mansfield and Pitcock released a letter to parents and guardians in the district outlining their efforts to cooperate with the IHSA.

In part, the statement reads:

“It is with heavy hearts that we are obligated to administer this suspension against our athletes, who have been affected by these events. We apologize for this situation and for the negative attention it has brought to our community. We want you to know that we are focused on rectifying these issues as soon as possible in order to uphold the integrity of our school district and to minimize the impact on our students.”

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