After an investigation into possible bylaws violations, the Homewood-Flossmoor boys basketball program will be allowed to compete in the state tournament, the Illinois High School Association announced Tuesday.
The Vikings are seeded sixth in the Class 4A Thornton Sectional and are scheduled to face either Andrew or Lincoln-Way Central in a semifinal of the Lincoln-Way Central Regional scheduled for March 5.
IHSA Executive Director Marty Hickman told The Times of its ruling Tuesday morning. The IHSA is still looking at the other programs at Homewood-Flossmoor.
"It is ongoing," Hickman said of the investigation into the other programs.
The ruling to allow the Vikings' boys team to play came as a relief to H-F coach Jim McLaughlin and his players.
"We're happy, of course, where we're at with the IHSA," McLaughlin said after the Vikings' game against Sandburg on Tuesday night. "We're very thankful we have an opportunity to participate in the state playoff series. We'll move forward. We have a goal here about getting to March and being able to play. That's great news for our side.
"When you're put under investigation and you think you've been doing things the right way for the last 20 years, 24 years I've been involved in coaching, it sets you back a little bit when someone tells you you're not. We're obviously relieved and thankful that Marty Hickman granted us permission to play in the playoffs."
McLaughlin said he talked with his players after the Bloom game on Saturday night, advising them the decision was imminent.
"We let them know where we stood," he said. "From my perspective, I thought we did things the right way in the summer. We did the right things in the fall. It was nice, great to see Marty Hickman saw things the same way."
Senior Tai Odiase said the IHSA's decision "was a load off my shoulders. We didn't do nothing wrong. It was a little bit of a relief."
The school's boys basketball program was investigated following violations made by the girls basketball program, the IHSA said. The agency last week banned the girls team from competing in the state playoffs after violating several IHSA bylaws. The boys broke a single rule regarding practice times, the agency said.
The investigation was a result of H-F self-reporting violations of the IHSA’s season limitation bylaw. The Vikings had organized conditioning programs during the offseason, which does not comply with IHSA bylaws, the agency stated in a news release.
"The violations by the girls program were far more extensive than the boys program," the release quoted Hickman as saying. "The school has been forthright in admitting the violations and working with the IHSA to correct them."
The girls program, ranked No. 1 in the state in Class 4A, had to forfeit all 21 of its wins.
According to the release, the school will be placed on probation for one year and be required to submit a comprehensive plan to ensure future compliance with IHSA rules.
Girls basketball coach Tony Smith is still on suspension, placed there by the IHSA board of directors, according to Hickman. Jodi Bryant, a spokesperson for District 233, said Tuesday that Smith is still the coach and is still employed by the district.
Homewood-Flossmoor High School said in a news release it plans to work with IHSA to complete a compliance audit and develop a comprehensive plan to ensure its compliance as well as coordinate professional development activities for the coaches. The probation calls for for additional and more severe consequences if the school commits future violations.