The Illinois High School Association has ruled the four Sudanese athletes who came to Mooseheart High School eligible, but has placed the school on probation and ruled it ineligible for this years IHSA basketball tournament unless it makes changes to its admissions procedures. The sternest words in the IHSA’s ruling were reserved for the A-HOPE organization:
“It was clear the students were not aware of everything that was going on,” but were “looking for an opportunity to get to the United States, to get and education,” and to go back and help their country, [IHSA board president Dan] Klett said. “Anybody who wants to give them a chance, they’re going to jump at it.”
A-HOPE, on the other hand, was “more concerned about basketball,” Klett said. The Sudanese athletes, with A-HOPE’s help, came to the U.S. on student visas.
The IHSA board also ruled that any schools who took referrals from A-HOPE will also be ruled “presumptively ineligible”, although ineligible for exactly what is unclear.
Credit is due to the IHSA for taking a better approach to the case than the NCAA did (or maybe even could) and coming up with a decent penalty. What the IHSA ruled is that the athletes may continue to play, but if the school refuses to address its culpability in the case, then it will be punished. And it arrived at the ruling by making a judgment on the most important question in the case, rather than a technicality.