Kansas recruit Cliff Alexander and his nationally-ranked Curie boys' basketball team may have an 0-25 record and been stripped of its Chicago Public League title, but they will still enter Illinois' 4A state tournament as one of its top seeds.
In one of the more bizarre prep basketball rulings you'll see, the Illinois High School Association cleared Curie to play in its first playoff game on Tuesday night. The ruling came just two days after Chicago Public Schools announced that Curie was forfeiting all 24 of its victories and its league title because seven players had been found academically ineligible. The investigation was triggered because of an anonymous phone call, the Chicago Sun-Times reports.
The city's school district reportedly discovered seven Curie players possessed a GPA below 2.0 — the minimum for participation as a student athlete. As punishment, CPS stripped Curie of its 24 victories and its public league title. It did, however, keep Curie eligible for the state tournament as all the schools in the state qualify in one of the four classifications.
The IHSA, however, only requires prep athletes to pass five classes and achieve 2.5 credits in the previous semester. That seems backward, but it's the reason why Curie, which received a top seeding before the CPS investigation began, will continue playing basketball in March with some of the seven players who were ineligible under CPS rules (the exact identities of the seven students were never revealed).
It's going to be a tough road for the Condors, however. Nine of Curie's 12 players are eligible under IHSA rules, including Alexander, according to the Sun-Times. However, two starters, Josh and Joseph Stamps, are reportedly ineligible for the state tournament.
Curie coach Mike Oliver will be back on the sidelines for the remaining games. He was suspended indefinitely over the weekend, but the Chicago Tribune reported that he was reinstated for the state tournament following the IHSA ruling. According to the Tribune, the school's athletic administrators failed to acquire authorized "Individual Study Plans" that would have allowed the players with sub-2.0 GPAs to participate.
According to the Sun-Times, a change.org petition is calling for Byrd-Bennett and Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel to reconsider the decision to vacate the 24 victories and CPL title due to alleged administrative errors. It has more than 1,500 signatures. Likewise, Rev. Jesse Jackson's Rainbow PUSH Coalition reportedly called the CPS ruling "disgusting" and "unfair punishment of students for adult misconduct."
All of which seems to ignore the underlying issue that student-athletes aren't achieving in the classroom.