The Illinois High School Association penalized both coaches on Wednesday for their conduct during and after a Class 2A boys basketball state title game marred by accusations of racism last month, according to the Chicago Tribune.
Despite South Holland (Ill.) Seton Academy assistant coach Art Kimber's insistence that members of the state champion Harrisburg (Ill.) squad used the N-word "so many times that I wasn't keeping track anymore," the IHSA cleared the players of any wrongdoing.
"We certainly don't dispute what the players from Seton Academy reported they heard," IHSA Executive Director Marty Hickman told the Tribune. "However, after discussions with those on and closest to the action on the floor, we were unable to substantiate those claims. Harrisburg admits that an inappropriate comment was made by one of its players, but that it was not of a racial nature, and it was punished with a technical foul at the time it occurred."
Harrisburg Community School District superintendent Dennis Smith vehemently defended his school's players after their 50-44 state title win in March. Meanwhile, Seton Academy head coach Brandon Thomas raised his concern about the alleged racial slurs at halftime, and then boycotted the trophy presentation in the aftermath of his team's loss.
As a result, the IHSA has placed Thomas on probation for next season and banned him from coaching in the playoffs for the next two years, according to the Tribune.
“Coach Thomas delivered an obscenity-laced tirade in the presence of student-athletes in the tunnel following the first half,” Hickman said in a statement issued to the Tribune. “The tournament staff then attempted to bring the coaches and administrators together to change the climate of the game. Coach Thomas initially refused to participate and when he eventually appeared, his demeanor made it clear that he would not be a conduit for positive change. There is no place for that type of behavior in high school athletics and no outcome of a high school sporting event warrants it.”
As detailed in a report by local ABC affiliate WSIL, Thomas ignored IHSA officials and Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn, leaving his second-place medal with an assistant coach as he exchanged words with a fan while police restrained him from entering the crowd.
The IHSA also placed Harrisburg head coach Randy Smithpeters on probation and suspended him from coaching his team during the playoffs next season, pending a behavioral training course, the Tribune reported. Hickman's statement also scolded Smithpeters for his contributions to "a hostile environment" during the title game.
"I'm very disappointed because that basketball game looked like any other game all year," superintendent Smith told WSIL. "He acted like he did at every other game. In my opinion, I think the IHSA has to do something to us because they had to do something to Seton Academy. I don't think Harrisburg should receive any sanctions. This is a make-up call."
Referees also received reprimands for losing control of the game, according to reports.