MIKE NIETO: Maybe a compliance person would be a good idea

2014-02-27T21:00:00Z 2014-02-28T00:29:06Z MIKE NIETO: Maybe a compliance person would be a good ideaMike Nieto Prep Beat nwitimes.com
February 27, 2014 9:00 pm  • 

Have you seen the commercial about where Leroy falls out of his deer stand and someone asks what happened?

There is no punch line here, but another voice said that it was an earthquake. "Earthquake?" the voice shouted back. "But, we're in Illinois."

The commercial caught your attention. What happened in the last few weeks in local prep sports with the Homewood-Flossmoor girls and boys basketball programs was not an earthquake, but it did send shock waves around the state.

Both violated the Illinois High School Association's by-laws regarding the open gym policy. The girls team was thrown out of the tourney.

Athletic directors and principals sent out emails to spring coaches about open gym.

"We just wanted to make sure they knew the rules," T.F. South athletic director Marc Brewe said. "I talk with all my coaches about the rules before the season and especially about open gym."

Thursday, three schools were reinstated into the boys tournament. The teams were initially ruled ineligible by IHSA Executive Director Marty Hickman on Feb. 24 after it was discovered that all three schools had violated IHSA by-law 5.04, which was exceeding boys basketball season limitations.

While principals, athletic directors and coaches can be the most careful about making sure the rules are followed, things can slip through the cracks. An administrator cannot be at open gyms 24 hours a day.

Former Thornwood athletic director Gary Lagesse said there may be a reason to add a monitor just to make sure the rules are followed.

"Maybe you need a compliance person at the high school that stays on top of everything," Lagesse said. "It has become so sophisticated. Colleges have them. It might not be a bad idea."

It might not, but remember, something can still slip through the cracks as it does at the collegiate level. A compliance person does not see a gray area. He or she sees it as a black line that you do not cross.

Four years ago, the T.F. North and Thornwood boys basketball teams had a similar situation with some Chicago Public League schools. The schools had a Sunday "open gym" at T.F. North during the regular season. A clear violation. The coaches and players were given a one-game suspension.

Lagesse did not know of the scrimmage at first, but when he found out he turned his school in. He also said high school sports have become big.

It might be harder for the smaller schools to do it and it would add another cost to a school district's budget. Marian athletic director Dave Mattio said it could be a good idea if the school and coaches buy into it.

"It (high school sports) is becoming bigger and bigger," Mattio said. "It is hard to keep up with it, but you have to talk to your coaches and make sure they know the rules and follow them."

This column is solely the writer's opinion. Reach him at mike.nieto@nwi.com.

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