Kroner: This time, IHSA got it right

Kroner: This time, IHSA got it right

Sports are out of control, and it’s time to reverse the trend.

There are so many problems associated with the games people play, it would take a week’s worth of work shifts to list them all.

We can’t expect immediate change, but we can — and should — demand movement in a different direction.

For all of the complaints I’ve lodged against the IHSA over the years — mainly dealing with postseason assignments and the watering down of the championship series — I want to be one of the first to stand and applaud this week’s outstanding IHSA actions.

No cheering in the press box?

OK, I’ll cheer at home, on the street corner. Anywhere that I happen to be outside of the press box.

Going helter-skelter
Student-athlete transfers are one of my biggest sources of consternation. There is one legitimate reason for a transfer: a family’s breadwinner — or breadwinners — gets relocated or takes a different job in a different community.

No-brainer. They rent a U-Haul. They pack up and move. They have a new address, a new set of neighbors and a new school for the children.

If the move occurs during the summer, the child is eligible — assuming he was at the school he left — when the school year begins.

Get-tough stand
Too many families flaunt the rules. They think a “new beginning” will be better for their child. They think a higher-profile program will enhance the scholarship possibilities for their young person. They think the coaching elsewhere is superior. They think the competition will be better.

They think too much and not about the proper things.

Their kids are getting an education all right. They are learning about deceit, bending the rules, that loyalty and commitment are words but not tenants.

Back to the IHSA.

In a decision involving two former area athletes — Jaycee Hillsman of St. Thomas More and Donte Ingram of Danville — the state governing body this week ruled the junior basketball players ineligible at state-ranked Class 4A power Chicago Simeon for the remainder of the school year for failing to comply with transfer rules.

A new direction
I’m not happy that these teenagers found themselves as pawns in this episode. I can’t imagine that it was their idea to pack up and relocate to an area where they didn’t have the lasting friendships that had been built locally in recent years.

I’m not happy that they lose eligibility because the people advising and guiding them didn’t play by the rules.

I’m not happy, either, with the attitude of forsaking the schools they had been attending and bailing out on programs now under the guidance of first-year head coaches, saying essentially, “This is about me. What’s best for my future is to be elsewhere. If it devastates the (former) team, so be it.”

But, I am happy that we have a starting point for change. Sports-related transfers are forever more going to be viewed with extreme scrutiny by the IHSA and won’t be given a green light unless they are accompanied by an actual move by the individual’s parents or legal guardians.

Yes, that noise you heard was my applause. It’s about time.

Proof positive
If a move is legitimate, families will have no problem proving it to the IHSA. Show rent receipts or a mortgage statement. Show the power bill, the cable bill. Show the grocery store receipt from last week’s purchases.

But don’t tell the IHSA five months after the school year started you’re in the process of moving. It knows better. It can see right through the wool in front of its eyes.

What is wrong with a student-athlete being in a program where you have to work to help make your teammates better instead of enrolling at a school where you have to work to match your teammates’ aptitude?

I admire The News-Gazette’s choice as 2012 All-State volleyball Player of the Year Lauren Carlini.

She enrolled in her hometown public school — West Aurora— right after it finished a 1-26 season in her sport and hung in there all four years. She earned All-State accolades, All-America honors and a full scholarship to a thriving Wisconsin program.

Granted, she played on an elite club team, too, but the point is her high school situation did not hinder her, and she helped West Aurora gain statewide respectability in the sport.

This issue truly goes beyond renting an apartment in another community or finding relatives for a teenager to live with so he can attend a different school. There are moral principles involved.

Traveling call
Hillsman and Ingram aren’t isolated instances. They are the most recent. Champaign Central lost outstanding players in consecutive years when first Jay Simpson and then Jordan Caroline left for out-of-state prep schools.

Rantoul’s Travis Britt — another basketball player — did the same thing for two years before returning to finish the final two years of his school career in northern Champaign County.

I have nothing against prep schools, but there’s a right way to go about it.

Unity’s Taylor Black chose the correct way. He finished his four years with the Rockets, headed off to Jireh Prep last fall — for games that didn’t count against his collegiate eligibility — and expects to be on the football roster at a four-year school in August.

It wasn’t the quick road to success, but it was a path paved with good intentions.

Reverse recruiting?
Some will argue that recruiting is the underlying problem. Not saying it doesn’t happen, but let’s be realistic here. Does anyone truly think someone from Simeon came to Champaign and Danville to recruit players for a program that is annually ranked among the nation’s elite?

If anything, the issue is reverse recruiting. That is, the families of rising stars see a successful program and want to get their child into that system without the willingness — or ability — to move the entire family within the school’s boundaries.

Along with the IHSA, Danville High School deserves praise for its role in the process. Schools need to sign off on transfers, and those in Danville recognized red flags from the outset and refused to green-light a move they weren’t convinced was honest.

The IHSA has taken a commendable stand. If it doesn’t give folks a reason to think twice, then they deserve the consequences.

Fred Kroner is The News-Gazette’s prep sports coordinator. He writes a weekly high school-related column. He can be reached by phone at 217-351-5232, by fax at 217-373-7401 and at fkroner@news-gazette.com. Follow him on Twitter @fredkroner.

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