IHSA rules German student attending Urbana High ineligible for sports

IHSA rules German student attending Urbana High ineligible for sports

URBANA — A German exchange student who hoped to play basketball and tennis at Urbana High School won’t be able to do so.

The Illinois State High School Association found Niklas Bals ineligible to play sports, at a hearing before its board Monday in Bloomington.
Bals — who’s from Hanover, Germany, and pays tuition at Urbana High School — said he’s sad and disappointed by the ruling.

The 16-year-old has been practicing with the basketball team all season and has sat on the bench for the team’s games.

Urbana resident Lenny De Forge is hosting Bals, independent of an exchange program. De Forge said it’s a decision that leaves them devastated, “big time.”

“It’s just not good,” De Forge said.

The IHSA allows foreign exchange students who are part of approved programs to play sports.

But because Bals is here independently, the IHSA considers him a transfer student, said Kurt Gibson, the IHSA’s associate executive director.

While De Forge became Bals’ legal guardian in hopes of making him eligible, such a change in guardianship would have to be caused by circumstances beyond the student’s, parents’ and school’s control.

“You just can’t do it, in other words, to find your way to athletic eligibility in our state,” Gibson said.

“We have a rule, an eligibility rule, for foreign exchange students who are in an approved program, but he’s not (eligible) that because he’s not in one of those programs,” Gibson said. “In our eyes, he’s not considered a foreign exchange student, he’s just a transfer student.”

Bals said he’s incredibly disappointed but will explore other hobbies, including artistic pursuits.

He said photography is a hobby of his, and he’s interested in getting involved in theater.

“I definitely will spend (my time) well, and wisely,” Bals said.


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bigsiss wrote on January 07, 2013 at 7:01 pm

He attends classes, has practiced with the team and pays tuition but can not play, pretty rediculous if you ask me, its just basketball for crying out loud.

bookworm24 wrote on January 07, 2013 at 8:01 pm

Maybe he should try Maroa-Forsyth.

PEguy wrote on January 08, 2013 at 6:01 am

Bookworm ...haha that was the funniest thing I've seen for awhile. I had to come out of retirement to comment on that one.  You are right though, in theory if he was NOT paying tuition, he would be eligible. Sounds like he's getting punished for doing the right thing. meanwhile you have several area kids "move" (rent an apt.) to new districts every year looking for better sports opportunities I.e. Maroa, salf fork, Tolono. And we haven't even started talking private schools. If he was going to STM he would be eligible because everyone pays tuition to go thereand and IHSA would have never caught it!

sinjon45 wrote on January 08, 2013 at 7:01 am

Crazy they can take his money but he cant play so if he a transfer student he cant play so if another student transfer from a champaign school will they be able to play

C in Champaign wrote on January 08, 2013 at 8:01 am

I feel bad for this kid. On the surface it seems like a no brainer to let him play, but deeper down it becomes a slippery slope. Imagine the impact it could have if a family "hosted" and made arrangements to be the legal guardian for a 7'-0" kid from europe who had basketball skills. Suddenly, the pretty good HS team is a world beater, all beacause a local booster brings a kid in from Europe. Once they open the door, there would be more of these instances, and they could impact the outcomes of state tournaments and such.

1opinion wrote on January 15, 2013 at 11:01 am

Some example of what the schools are like around here.  The boy pays tuition, he has

the right to play, just like the rest of the students.  Doesn't matter if he isn't part of

a approved program.  PAYS TUITION!!   


Best of luck to his host in getting this changed!!