On The Fence

Bobby Leach "The Rooster" | 2/26/2014, 5:05 p.m.
Last week the IHSA suspended the Homewood-Flossmoor girls varsity basketball team and their coach Anthony Smith from competing in post ...

Last week the IHSA suspended the Homewood-Flossmoor girls varsity basketball team and their coach Anthony Smith from competing in post season play just one hour before their scheduled contest against TF North. The Vikings were banned from "participating in the IHSA State Series over a series of IHSA by-law violations. The girls’ basketball postseason pairings will not be changed and TF North will receive a forfeit victory in their Regional Semifinal game."

It is alleged that among other infractions that coach Smith, who formerly led Bolingbrook to four previous IHSA state championships over his tenure at the school, held illegal practices and was in attendance at a girls club basketball contest outside of the school's program which is not allowed as Smith was alleged to have done. Talk about a shocking turn of events for a team that appeared on the surface to have all the pieces in place to make a deep run in the playoffs this season.

In addition to stiff punishment, the school's program was forced to forfeit all of their games for the 2013-2014 season leaving me to wonder if the punishment fit the crime. The Homewood-Flossmoor principle followed the rules governing the IHSA membership and reported the suspected violations to the IHSA in a series of letters and documents once they became known but that had little effect on the IHSA's board decision to enforce the penalties announced late last week.

A lawsuit filed by a former unnamed starter of the Viking program alleging that coach Smith recruited players after learning about the arrival of six transfer student athletes that coincidentally all play girls basketball. The lawsuit while ruled on at this point, raises several questions and enough red flags for the school district to take notice who launched their own internal investigation of the claims levied against the school in the lawsuit.

Proving that a coach outright recruits players is a pretty difficult accusation to prove in most cases however there is a text message that was entered as evidence from coach Smith to players about an "open gym" workout that allegedly was sent to players not yet registered in the district. There is an ongoing investigation into the girl's basketball program as well as other sport teams at the school after the evidence was handed over to the IHSA so to say this is over now may be a bit premature.

The bottom line is that coach Smith has been highly regarded within the girls basketball family in the State of Illinois and the charges if proven accurate could lead to more sanctions handed down further tarnishing the talented coach. It should be noted that while the IHSA has taken action, the lawsuit remains nothing more than a challenge to the program at this point and a judge has yet to rule on anything with regards to it. My hope is that this is merely a bump in the road for a coach that simply overlooked the details and inadvertently caused a larger problem for his program. I suppose it will all come out in the wash and I am sure there will be plenty ready to rush to judgment. Think I'll sit on the sidelines and see what happens here before I spout off.