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IHSA completes investigation

BLOOMINGTON - The Illinois High School Association (IHSA) has completed its investigation into the 2013 IHSA Class 2A Boys Basketball State Championship game between Harrisburg High School and Seton Academy and has announced sanctions resulting from that investigation.

“This was an ugly and embarrassing incident,” said IHSA Executive Director Marty Hickman. “Harrisburg High School, Seton Academy and the contest officials all share in the blame for the outcome. We also recognize that the IHSA needs to be more proactive in dealing with on-court behavior and conveying the expectations for appropriate conduct to the players, coaches and officials participating in our events.”

During the investigation, the IHSA was unable to corroborate allegations made by Seton Academy that members of the Harrisburg team used racial slurs during the championship game.

“We certainly don’t dispute what the players from Seton Academy reported they heard,” said Hickman. “However, after discussions with those on and closest to the action on the floor, we were unable to substantiate those claims. Harrisburg admits that an inappropriate comment was made by one of its players, but that it was not of a racial nature, and it was punished with a technical foul at the time it occurred.”

The following penalties have been announced as a result of the investigation:

HARRISBURG HIGH SCHOOL SANCTIONS -Harrisburg High School head basketball coach Randy Smithpeters may have no involvement (team  contact, coaching, attending games) with Harrisburg or any other IHSA member school during postseason State Series basketball contests (Regionals, Sectionals, Super-Sectionals, State Finals) in 2013-14, unless he first successfully completes the NFHS Teaching and Modeling Behavior training program. -Coach Smithpeters has been placed on probation for the 2013-14 school year.

SETON ACADEMY SANCTIONS  -In addition to the sanctions implemented by the school, Seton Academy head basketball coach Brandon Thomas may have no involvement (team contact, coaching, attending games) at Seton Academy or any other IHSA member school during postseason State Series basketball contests (Regionals, Sectionals, Super-Sectionals, State Finals) in 2013-14 and 2014-15. -Coach Thomas has been placed on probation for the 2013-14 school year.

CONTEST OFFICIALS SANCTIONS -The contest officials have been reprimanded for failure to enforce the bench conduct rule during the championship game.

Coach Thomas’ suspension comes as a result of incidents that occurred at halftime and in the post-game awards ceremony, when the coach bypassed offers of congratulations from the IHSA Board of Directors and the Governor of Illinois. He then threw his medal to 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.

“Coach Thomas delivered an obscenity laced tirade in the presence of student-athletes in the tunnel following the first half,” said Hickman. “The tournament staff then attempted to bring the coaches and administrators together to change the climate of the game. Coach Thomas initially refused to participate and when he eventually appeared, his demeanor made it clear that he would not be a conduit for positive change. There is no place for that type of behavior in high school athletics and no outcome of a high school sporting event warrants it.”

The Harrisburg sanctions come as a result of the actions by Coach Smithpeters, especially during the first half of the contest.

“Coach Smithpeters crossed the line early in the game with his actions toward the game officials,” said Hickman. “He should have been issued a technical foul during the first half for his blatant violation of coach’s box rule. His behavior set a negative tone for the players and fans and contributed to a hostile environment that only grew worse during the first half.”

Hickman also addressed the first quarter technical foul on the Harrisburg player. “The Harrisburg player had to be restrained by teammates initially and it was clear that the player was still emotionally charged after the technical foul, yet he remained in the contest. I don’t know if I have ever seen that before in a high school basketball game. In my mind, the inaction by the coach contributed to the negative environment of the game.”

While the coaches and players are fully responsible for their actions, the IHSA also recognizes that the game officials should have exhibited more control early in the contest.

“Officiating is a tough job and a state championship is a big stage,” said Hickman. “We understand the officials’ train of the thought is to try and let the teams play, but all these factors came together and things boiled over in the first half before they were able to rein the game in.”

The investigation of the 2013 IHSA Class 2A Boys Basketball State Championship is complete and no further action will be taken.

“It is important to state that in a contest shrouded in negativity, there were positives that were overlooked that can be taken away,” said Hickman. “First and foremost were the actions of Seton Academy senior Kamal Shasi, who despite the disappointment of 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.”

IHSA Assistant Director Matt Troha said both schools were notified of the sanctions prior to their public release. In regards to the State runner-up trophy that Seton declined to accept in Peoria, Troha said that remains at the IHSA office in Bloomington.

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