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Boys Basketball: IHSA hits Seton, Harrisburg with sanctions

Setboys basketball coach BrandThomas. | File photo

Seton boys basketball coach Brandon Thomas. | File photo

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Updated: May 12, 2013 2:10PM



Marty Hickman didn’t like what he saw in the first half of the IHSA Class 2A boys basketball title game last month.

So the IHSA executive director did something he’d never done in more than 20 years with the organization and more than a decade as its leader. He brought together coaches Brandon Thomas, of Seton, and Randy Smithpeters, of Harrisburg, for a quick conversation about sportsmanship after a half that included the ejection of Seton star Mark Weems Jr. after his second technical foul.

“I was uncomfortable with how that first half played out,” Hickman said Wednesday.

He was even more unhappy with the night as a whole, which ended with Seton refusing to accept the runner-up trophy after losing 50-44. The fallout led to an IHSA investigation of allegations that Harrisburg players used racial slurs and of Thomas’ actions during halftime and after the game.

On Wednesday, the IHSA announced the results of the investigation, which included sanctions against both coaches. Thomas will not be allowed to coach Seton in the next two IHSA state series and is on probation for the 2013-14 season. Smithpeters also is on probation for next season and can coach in the postseason the next two years only if he completes the National Federation of State High School Association’s Teaching and Modeling Behavior training program.

“I’m hoping that we never see it again,” Hickman said of the display of poor sportsmanship on both sides, which he called “an ugly and embarrassing incident” in a statement announcing the sanctions.

The game officials also were reprimanded for not enforcing the bench conduct rule, and Hickman said Smithpeters “should have been T’d up” for repeatedly straying from the coach’s box in the first half.

Thomas’ penalty was more severe than that given to Smithpeters because, Hickman, said, “coach Thomas’ actions were far more egregious.”

According to the IHSA statement, “Coach Thomas delivered an obscenity-laced tirade in the presence of student-athletes in the tunnel following the first half.”

“I have never been a party to a tirade like (the one) I saw in the tunnel in front of kids,” Hickman said.

After the game, the IHSA said, “Thomas threw his medal at an assistant coach and exited the court, where he engaged in a verbal altercation with a fan and had to be restrained from entering the stands by security and police.”

The IHSA statement said the organization could not verify Seton’s claims about Harrisburg making racial taunts. But the statement noted that Harrisburg admitted one of its players made “an inappropriate comment” of a non-racial nature which drew a technical foul.

Hickman said the IHSA could have handled the situation better.

“To be honest, I hope it reenergizes our efforts (regarding sportsmanship),” Hickman said. “We recognize in this particular case there’s more we shoulda, coulda done. That doesn’t excuse anything.

“You shouldn’t have to tell people to act in a civil matter.”

Hickman did single out one example of good sportsmanship in the IHSA statement. He praised Seton senior Kamal Shasi, “who despite the disappointment of the game’s outcome, was instrumental in gathering his teammates to line up for the postgame handshake, in some cases physically pulling dejected teammates off the bench to participate. A moment of poor judgment that led to a player’s ejection should not overshadow the fact that Seton Academy’s players displayed great sportsmanship during the state final games.”

Seton athletic director Deon Tolliver did not return a call seeking comment.



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