H-F High School: Time to move on after girls hoops flap
BY NICK SWEDBERG Correspondent April 23, 2014 7:18PM
School District 233 says Tony Smith will return as coach of the Homewood-Flossmoor High School girls basketball team. | File photo
Updated: May 25, 2014 3:50PM
Homewood-Flossmoor High School wants to move past the controversy surrounding a recently reinstated coach and already has taken steps to avoid a recurrence of the situation, according to a statement released Wednesday by the school.
The Illinois High School Association announced Tuesday that it had lifted an indefinite suspension leveled against Anthony Smith, H-F’s former girls basketball coach, on Feb. 19 amid allegations that players were illegally recruited and did not meet residency requirements.
“We are pleased that the IHSA review has come to an end and that Tony Smith has been cleared of any recruiting violations,” a statement from H-F school spokeswoman Jodi Bryant said.
The allegations were false and lacked merit, the statement said. Two of the three alleged violations are “common scheduling practices” that many other large high schools follow for the safety and participation of students, it said.
Allegations arose during Smith’s first and only season with H-F. A lawsuit filed in January by one of the players said that students transferred from Smith’s former school, Bolingbrook High School, and sought to have those students declared ineligible to play. It also asked for Smith’s removal as head coach.
The statement from H-F called the lawsuit “baseless” and said officials will be able to release more details to the public now that litigation has ended.
With Tuesday’s decision, Smith can immediately coach again at any IHSA member school.
“We’re all incredibly happy about this decision,” Smith’s lawyer, Patrick Mayerbock, said after the decision was announced Tuesday. “It’s absolutely what I expected. I’m obviously happy for Tony because this is a big step in the right direction, which is getting him back doing what he does best.”
Just a week earlier, the Homewood-Flossmoor Community High School District 233 Board voted 4 to 3 not to renew his contract for the 2014-15 school year.
The IHSA board also announced it has closed an investigation into H-F’s athletic program.
“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 wrongdoing,” the school’s statement said.
The school’s own investigation turned up open-gym violations and participation violations by both the players and Smith.
After receiving a report in February from the school about the investigation, the IHSA board removed the Vikings from the Class 4A state playoffs and H-F forfeited all of its games for the season.
On March 28, an attorney for the unidentified player dropped the lawsuit against the school, saying the player wished to finish her senior year without the cost and complication of continuing the legal action. The player had alleged that Smith had broken recruiting rules during the transfer of six players, four from Bolingbrook and one each from Marist and Plainfield East.
“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,” H-F’s statement said. “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.”