Seton boys basketball coach Brandon Thomas will be barred from the next two postseasons, thanks to sanctions passed down Wednesday by the Illinois High School Association.
The IHSA released its findings from an investigation of the March 9 Class 2A state championship between Seton and Harrisburg, after which Seton refused to accept the runner-up trophy. In its report, IHSA executive director Marty Hickman called the actions of both teams and the game officials "ugly and embarrassing."
Thomas is barred from the next two postseasons, and has been placed on probation for the 2013-14 school year. Harrisburg coach Randy Smithpeters is barred from coaching in the 2013-14 postseason, unless he successfully completes a behavior training program. Smithpeters is also on probation for the 2013-14 season.
The game officials were reprimanded for failing to enforce the bench conduct rules during the game.
"Harrisburg High School, Seton Academy and the contest officials all share in the blame for the outcome," Hickman said in a news release. "We also recognize that the IHSA needs to be more proactive in dealing with on-court behavior and conveying the expectations for appropriate conduct to the players, coaches and officials participating in our events.”
Seton officials, principal Marianne Lynch, athletic director Deon Tolliver, Thomas and assistant principal Earl McKay, met Wednesday afternoon at the high school. Tolliver, Lynch and Thomas all declined to comment.
"Not until we talk more with the IHSA," Tolliver said.
The IHSA investigation was unable to corroborate allegations made by Seton Academy that members of the Harrisburg team used racial slurs during the championship game.
“We certainly don’t dispute what the players from Seton Academy reported they heard,” Hickman said. “However, after discussions with those on and closest to the action on the floor, we were unable to substantiate those claims.”
“I think everything Randy did was taken care of by the official, and it was normal basketball coaching behavior,” Harrisburg superintendent Dennis Smith said. “This is a make-up call for what Seton Academy did (refusing the trophy). ... Seton Academy’s behavior was despicable, and I am offended that our kids, coaches and school have been maligned because of it.”
Smithpeters provided a statement to the Southern Illinoisian late Wednesday.
"I disagree with and am disappointed in the actions taken by the IHSA executive director," Smithpeters said. "I will take this information under advisement and follow the direction of my athletic director, superintendent and board of education. This controversy should in no way diminish the great accomplishments of the 2013 state championship Bulldog basketball team."
Thomas’ suspension is a result of incidents at halftime and in the post-game awards ceremony, when he bypassed offers of congratulations from the IHSA board of directors and Gov. Pat Quinn. The release states Thomas then threw his medal to an assistant coach and exited the court, where he engaged in a verbal altercation with a fan and had to be restrained by security and police from entering the stands.
“Coach Thomas delivered an obscenity laced tirade in the presence of student-athletes in the tunnel following the first half,” Hickman said. “The tournament staff then attempted to bring the coaches and administrators together to change the climate of the game. Coach Thomas initially refused to participate and when he eventually appeared, his demeanor made it clear that he would not be a conduit for positive change.”
“Coach Smithpeters crossed the line early in the game with his actions toward the game officials,” Hickman said. “He should have been issued a technical foul during the first half for his blatant violation of coach’s box rule. His behavior set a negative tone for the players and fans and contributed to a hostile environment that only grew worse during the first half.”
IHSA spokesman Matt Troha said the runner-up trophy remains at the IHSA office in Bloomington.
— Scott Mees of the Southern Illinoisian contributed to this story.