Ousted Homewood-Flossmoor girls basketball coach Tony Smith has been cleared to resume coaching "anywhere," the Illinois High School Association announced Tuesday.
The IHSA's Board of Directors also voted at its Tuesday meeting to close its investigation into H-F's athletic programs.
"We appreciate the cooperation of Homewood-Flossmoor High School and its administration throughout this process," IHSA executive director Marty Hickman said. "They were forthcoming in providing the Board with the information they needed to make this decision. Given that they have worked diligently to rectify the processes and procedures that allowed these violations to occur, the board felt it was prudent to close the investigation and reinstate coach Smith."
Suspended "indefinitely" in February for violations of IHSA rules that surfaced after the filing of a lawsuit alleging he illegally recruited players to H-F, Smith declined comment Tuesday afternoon via telephone.
"Obviously, he's very, very happy with the outcome," Smith's attorney, Patrick Mayerbock, said. "At this point, we just want to get him back coaching again.
"It's really too soon to say what he's going to do. But Tony's first priority is to get back on the basketball floor. … I can say without hesitation that Tony is very much looking forward to coaching again."
H-F Director of Human Resources and Public Relations Jodi Bryant released a statement.
"We are pleased that the IHSA review has come to an end and that Tony Smith has been cleared of any recruiting violations. The perceptions that have been portrayed in the media regarding recruiting and illegal residency are false and have no merit. Two of the three violations that were discovered and self-reported were happening system wide and are common scheduling practices utilized by many large comprehensive high schools to ensure the safety and participation of students. We look forward to making recommendations to the IHSA regarding the updating of bylaws in order to meet the needs of high schools with not just hundreds but also thousands of students participating in IHSA-sanctioned activities.
"The 17 young women that represented our community on the H-F girls’ basketball team were called upon to take the responsibility for decisions that were out of their control. They accepted the highest price for the actions and inactions of the adults – a consequence that from the outside - seemed to lack continuity, precedence and was not substantive. They did so with grace, dignity and humility – and we are so very proud of each and every one of them and their accomplishments.
"The last several months have been difficult for our students, parents and community as a whole. Homewood-Flossmoor Community High School represents the high expectations of our community and the outstanding achievements of our students and staff in the classroom, in the gym, on the stage, as well as the field. Now that the litigation has come to an end, we will have opportunities to speak to the stakeholders of the H-F community in greater detail. As we continue to move forward, we are taking action in several domains.
"We want to assure the H-F community and the IHSA that we have always taken the high road knowing the truth would prevail over baseless law suits and damaging allegations. We have taken the necessary steps to ensure that protocols and procedures are in place to prevent this type of situation from happening again and we look forward to taking every opportunity to provide additional information related to the chain of events that occurred over the last several months now that there have been no additional findings of wrong doing."
H-F's District 233 school board voted 4-3 at its April 15 meeting not to bring Smith back as a teacher for the 2014-15 school year. Superintendent Von Mansfield also made it clear Smith would not be back as coach.
Smith won four state titles in 12 years at Bolingbrook before moving to H-F for the 2013-14 school year. Six transfers joined the Vikings program as well, including four from Bolingbrook.
Though all the transfers were approved by the IHSA, a lawsuit filed in January against the school and Smith by an unnamed member of the squad prompted H-F administrators to investigate the program. Based on the results of that investigation, on Feb. 19 the IHSA removed H-F – at the time 21-2 and ranked No. 1 in the state – from its Class 4A tournament, declared forfeits in the Vikings' wins and suspended Smith "indefinitely."
The lawsuit was dropped in March.