IHSA says agency approved transfer of girls basketball players to H-F
By Tony Baranek firstname.lastname@example.org January 16, 2014 5:37PM
Homewood-Flossmoor head coach Anthony Smith goes over plays after the first quarter against Bolingbrook in Bolingbrook on Tuesday, Jan. 14, 2014. | Mike Mantucca / For Sun-Times Media
Updated: February 18, 2014 6:27AM
Marty Hickman admits that “it looks a bit awkward.”
The executive secretary of the IHSA said Thursday, however, that Homewood-Flossmoor was in compliance with the organization’s guidelines during the process of accepting six transfer students who are members of the girls varsity basketball team.
The school is being sued by an unnamed player (through her parent), alleging that first-year basketball coach Anthony Smith unfairly recruited players from other schools to fill top positions on the team.
The lawsuit, filed Wednesday in Cook County Circuit Court, claims the six transfer students participated in practices over the summer while they still were enrolled at other schools, that Smith violated the IHSA’s rules regarding recruiting or trying to recruit students, and that the situation “undermines and destroys the close-knit community fabric” in the school district.
The lawsuit asks that Smith be removed as coach and that the six transfers be declared ineligible, pending an IHSA investigation.
“We are aware of the allegations and lawsuit and will be cooperating fully with any investigative authorities,” Homewood-Flossmoor director of human resources Jodi Bryant said.
On Wednesday, Smith denied the claims in the lawsuit.
“That is not true, that is definitely not true,” he said. “That’s something that I’m not thinking about or not worrying about because that’s just not true.”
Smith didn’t return a phone call Thursday.
According to Hickman, Homewood-Flossmoor contacted the IHSA at the time of the transfers.
“We made eligibility rulings on all of these kids, but it was only in regard to their residence and transfers,” he said. “And I believe all of the schools signed off on the transfers. I know they did.
“I’m really not aware of the allegations of practice violations. We haven’t had any credible allegations of those kinds of things. But we did make rulings on their eligibility in regard to their residence and transfers.”
Hickman said any further investigation would require the IHSA receiving credible evidence of recruiting violations.
“We had some people reach out to us (earlier in the school year), but that happens all the time,” he said. “But we would say to folks, ‘Hey, look, if you have some evidence that you want to share with us and we find it credible, we would look into it.’ But I can’t tell you that we had anything presented to us that (would have) caused us to initiate an investigation into this.
“Right now I can (say) that H-F secured eligibility rulings like we would expect them to, and the schools where these kids came from did not indicate any red flags in the concurrence process, so in that regard we didn’t have any reason to believe that there were any issues.”
Bolingbrook athletic director Robert E. Rose confirmed the principal’s concurrence forms submitted from Homewood-Flossmoor were signed.
He also said there were no hard feelings at the school regarding the transfer of four players to Homewood-Flossmoor.
“I think he’s a great coach,” Rose said. “I grew up with Tony (as a fellow student/athlete at Bolingbrook), and, of course, I like him. We’re thankful for his contributions to Bolingbrook High School over the years. I remember when we weren’t anything in girls basketball. He put us on the map.
“You don’t get to that point, winning four state titles with a school without being a good coach. He’s certainly done that, and obviously he’s transitioned nicely over to H-F and he’s doing a good job over there. We wish him well.”
In 12 years as coach at Bolingbrook, Smith won four state titles and nine consecutive sectional championships.
Of the six transfer students, four (Amarah Coleman, Destiny Harris, Kristen Moore and Lexi Smith) were from Bolingbrook. Bria Stallworth transferred from Marist and Faith Suggs from Plainfield East.
All seven Homewood-Flossmoor varsity players from the 2012-13 roster eligible to return did so, while another who sat out last season returned. According to Smith, two others from the sophomore roster who started summer camp with the varsity didn’t remain; one decided to concentrate on track and field and the other transferred.
The transfers caused a stir in the Southland girls basketball community.
According to Hickman, however, the IHSA was satisfied that Homewood-Flossmoor was in compliance with its rules.
“I would tell you I think it looks a bit awkward, and I would tell you it’s a little unusual, but in terms of having a comfort level with the school being able to demonstrate that the students met the requirements of our residence and transfer rule, yes, I was comfortable with that,” Hickman said.
“We ruled on these situations based on the information we had, and the information that was presented to us demonstrated that they complied with the residence and transfer rule.”