Public League coaches eye exit from IHSA

December, 13, 2011
12/13/11
5:33
PM CT
Simeon State ChampsScott Powers for ESPN.comSimeon may be writing new headlines if coach Robert Smith has his way.
Two of Chicago's most high-profile boys basketball coaches believe the Chicago Public League should consider seceding from the Illinois High School Association.

Simeon coach Robert Smith and Whitney Young's Tyrone Slaughter, who have won a combined five state championships, said Tuesday they're for the Chicago Public League looking into separating itself from the IHSA.

Their contention with the IHSA is over its recent Class 4A sectional playoffs assignments. The sectional assignments included all of Chicago's schools, public and private, in two Class 4A sectionals, which will feed into the same super-sectional. It will allow at most one Chicago Public League representative in the Class 4A state tournament in Peoria.

The Chicago Public League has previously placed multiple teams in the state tournament since the IHSA went to four classes in 2007. Simeon and Whitney Young met for the Class 4A state championship in 2010.

The Chicago Public League tournament champion was provided an automatic berth into the Class AA state tournament until the 2002-2003 season.

"My personal opinion is and has been for a while that the time probably has come to secede from the IHSA for a lot of different reasons," said Slaughter, whose team won the Class 4A state championship in 2009. "We came into the state playoffs in the beginning, and it had some positives and impact, but apparently it has been somewhere diluted.

"I'm biased about it. I'm a Chicago Public League coach. I'm not a coach in any other league. I'm rooting and supporting and my No. 1 interest is in the Chicago Public League."

Simeon, which is ranked No. 1 by ESPNChicago.com, and Whitney Young, which is No. 2, are assigned to the same sectional this season. The sectional also includes Bogan, Curie, De La Salle, Hyde Park, Marist and St. Rita, which have also been ranked this season.

"These teams are going to be in more difficult regionals than other teams are going to be in sectional and super-sectionals," Slaughter said. "That's fundamentally wrong."

Smith's contention also was Simeon was playing the same Public League teams throughout the season and then has to see them again early in the playoffs. There's a chance Simeon could play the same team in the regular season, city playoffs and a third time early in the state playoffs.

Smith thought the Public League should consider departing the IHSA and have its own tournament in Chicago.

"That would be the right thing to do," said Smith, who has coached in five state championship games. "We're at home and have ours at the same time as the state has theirs. Who are people going to come and see? People are coming to see the best players in the country, which is here."

The IHSA's objective is plainly not to have multiple Chicago teams in its state tournaments. The IHSA wants its tournaments represented by the entire state. Even if Simeon, Whitney Young, Curie and De LaSalle, all Chicago teams, were the top four-ranked squads in the state, the IHSA would rather have teams from other areas accounted for in Peoria.

"The goal is not have the best two, three, four teams in the state finals," IHSA spokesperson Matt Troha said. "It's for a true state tournament with the state geographically represented."

Because of that, the IHSA determines its sectional assignments based geographically. In recent years, Chicago had too many schools fall into the Class 4A enrollment category to place in two sectionals and instead were spread out over three sectionals, which gave it a chance at having multiple teams downstate.

This season that changed because a number of Chicago schools dropped to Class 3A due to change in enrollment figures and the IHSA's new multiplier waiver policy. With fewer Chicago schools in Class 4A, the IHSA was able to place all of the schools in two sectionals.

"I think it's important for people to realize one school changing can change things significantly," Troha said. "People got comfortable with the way it was. It's a domino effect."

Chicago Public League Coaches Association president Vince Carter thought the Public League's coaches and the IHSA need to begin communicating before any drastic decisions are made.

"What does seceding mean?" Carter said. "What does that do? It sounds good, but what's the plan? We probably need to talk to the IHSA. I think we should be talking more."

Scott Powers is a general reporter for ESPNChicago.com. He is an award-winning journalist and has been reporting on preps, colleges and pros for publications throughout the Midwest since 1997.

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