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Tuesday, Nov. 22, 2016: Illinois football controversy heads to court

   Leading off today: Forget the actual game. The time to start throwing flags is right now.

   A blown call in an Illinois High School Association football semifinal game is setting the stage for a court to potentially decide the outcome of a state playoff game.

   Fenwick High has filed suit in Cook County Chancery Court following its 18-17 loss to Plainfield North in overtime in the Class 7A semifinal. The suit seeks "declaratory, injunctive and other relief against IHSA," which admitted that Fenwick should have won 10-7 in regulation with the final play being an intentional grounding call against Fenwick on fourth down deep in its own end.

   Instead, the on-field officials awarded Plainfield North an untimed down at Fenwick's 5-yard line, and the Tigers kicked a field goal to force overtime. In overtime, Fenwick scored a touchdown and an extra point to go ahead 17-10, then Plainfield North scored a touchdown and a 2-point conversion to win.

   National Federation of State High School Association rules state that a loss-of-down penalty that occurs as time expires does not result in an untimed down. IHSA Executive Director Craig Anderson admitted hours after the game that the officiating crew had erred, but the IHSA board of directors said it did not have the authority to reverse the call.

   The court hearing is scheduled for Wednesday morning.

   Opinion: The only right decision for the judge hearing the case will be for him or her to punt it out of the courtroom. There is no room in the judicial system to be deciding game results under these circumstances for both logistical and philosophical reasons -- (a) these are kids games and (b) there are literally hundreds of thousands of them played every year across the country.

   The fact that it was a playoff game was unfortunate, but we can't have courts being asked to intervene over missed calls or misapplied rules during the flow of action on the field.

   Strictly speaking, Fenwick has less of a case than the Yonkers Montessori Academy girls soccer team, which had a win taken away by Section 1 after the fact last month, lost an appeal and did not go to court over the matter. In that situation, the on-field officials failed to follow an administrative procedure governing the penalty-kick shootout after overtime.

   Had that been an in-game error such as incorrectly calling offsides to negate a goal, then YMA would have no more argument then than the Illinois school does now. Where the system failed YMA was that the penalty-kick shootout could have and should have been restarted at the point at which the administrative error was plainly made.

   Mandatory reading: A weekend article in The Chronicle of Higher Education has the high school/college sports world abuzz because its look at the recruiting process might be as enlightening as any such story in memory.

   Reporter Brad Wolverton pieced together the story of Virginia scholastic swimmer Allison Goldblatt, talented enough to attract attention and offers from Division I coaches.

   Wolverton expertly explained the nuts and bolts of recruiting, documenting the difference in scholarship money available for football players as opposed to their counterparts in swimming and lacrosse. He also touched upon unrealistic expectations of parents hoping to recoup thousands of dollars spent on offseason club training and competition and showed how some young athletes have highly unrealistic perceptions of how far up the NCAA recruitment ladder their talent might take them.


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  •    But the best component of the reporting was Wolverton's meticulous piecing together of Goldblatt's journey through the money maze. He documented how college coaches can be intentionally vague -- if not outright deceptive -- about scholarship money, how they play one athlete off against another in order to lock up a commitment and how scarce the "free" money actually is in so many sports because many schools do not allocate anything even close to the number of scholarships allowed by the NCAA.

       The story is long, but reading it should be considered a must for families with children who have dreams of playing a sport at a Division I college.

       Hoops a no-go at Sec. 9 school: John A. Coleman Catholic, which has won two state championships in the sport in the last seven years, will not be field a girls varsity basketball team this season.

       The Stateswomen will have a junior varsity team only, coached by Andrea Clausi. Former varsity coach Guy Leonard has left the program, The Daily Freeman reported.

       "We have mostly ninth- and 10th-graders, so we will have a junior varsity program only," AD Don Kiernan said.

       Coleman had struggled with number the past two seasons, when it did not put a JV team on the court.

       The program won six consecutive Section 9 championships from 2008 through 2013 and won NYSPHSAA Class D titles in 2009 and '11. Section 9 moved Coleman to Class C for the 2011-12 season where it reached the state semis and then boosted the team to Class B the following year.

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