What might have been the beginning of a run to a Class 4A state title was an empty gym with empty seats that the Homewood-Flossmoor girls basketball team would have occupied for their scheduled Class 4A T.F. North Regional.
Instead, all that was left Wednesday was an empty feeling of what might have been.
It is not the death penalty, but the Illinois High School Association's decision to suspend Homewood-Flossmoor from the state tourney had the same result.
The IHSA found H-F's program in violation of bylaws regarding season limitations and open-gym limitations. It suspended the team and coach Tony Smith from from the state tourney. The Vikings also had to forfeit all 21 of its wins.
What a shame.
For the good of the program, the school and the communities that feed into Homewood-Flossmoor High School, Smith should step down as coach. I am not accusing him of wrongdoing and am certainly not questioning his coaching ability, but the school's whole athletic program is now under scrutiny by the IHSA. It is one big dark cloud over what is an outstanding school district, academically and athletically.
The violations the IHSA said the girls team committed may have also been committed by other athletic programs at the school, the agency said. If so, then should the agency investigate the boys basketball team? According to documents, they had the same summer workout schedule as the girls.
If there were violations in other sports under a different coach, the current coach and players will pay the consequences.
Smith's voice mail was full and he did not respond to a text message from The Times.
What really is too bad is the IHSA did not allow H-F to play the game with the kids who were left from last year and allow sophomore players up for the tournament. There was no need to penalize those kids.
IHSA spokesman Matt Troha did not return a phone call, email or text message. He was at the state wrestling meet in Champaign.
An investigation is ongoing, focusing on an accusation that Smith recruited players to H-F. Nobody is going to win in this case. Unfortunately, the outcome may be decided in a court of law other than a basketball court.