BLOOMINGTON — Coaches on both sides in the investigation looking into in-game and off the court incidents during the 2013 Class 2A Boys Basketball State Championship game between Harrisburg High School and Seton Academy have been reprimanded by the llinois High School Association (IHSA).
The following penalties have been announced as a result of the investigation:
• Harrisburg High School head basketball coach Randy Smithpeters has been placed on probation for the 2013-14 school year. He 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.
• 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..
In addition, Thomas also has been placed on probation for the 2013-14 school year.
• The contest officials have been reprimanded for failure to enforce the bench conduct rule during the championship game.
“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.”
Thomas’ suspension comes as a result of incidents that occurred at halftime and in the postgame 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 Smithpeters, when he failed to adhere to restrictions of his coach’s box nor reprimand a player who had received a technical, Hickman said.
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.
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. Hickman said 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.”
In a contest shrouded in negativity, Hickman said it was important to note the positives that were overlooked that can be taken away. He noted how 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.”
IHSA Assistant Executive 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.