BLOOMINGTON, Ill. — The IHSA has issued sanctions against Harrisburg and Seton Academy stemming from a Class 2A state championship basketball game on March 9 that spiraled into “an ugly and embarrassing incident,” according to Executive Secretary Marty Hickman.
Sanctions announced in a press release issued late Wednesday by the IHSA were aimed at the two head coaches, Harrisburg’s Randy Smithpeters and Brandon Thomas of Seton Academy.
Both coaches have been placed on probation. Thomas may have no involvement (team contact, coaching, attending games) with his team during the 2013-14 post-season. Smithpeters faces the same sanction “unless he first successfully completes the NFHS Teaching and Modeling Behavior training program” according to the report.
That same caveat was not extended to Thomas apparently because of incidents that occurred at halftime and in the post-game awards ceremony. According to the press release, Thomas bypassed offers of congratulations from the IHSA Board of Directors and the Governor of Illinois. He then threw his medal to an assistant coach and exited the court where he engaged in a verbal altercation with a fan and had to be restrained from entering the stands by security and police.
“Coach Thomas delivered an obscenity laced tirade in the presence of student-athletes in the tunnel following the first half,” said Hickman. “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.”
The Harrisburg sanctions come as a result of the actions by coach Smithpeters, especially during the first half of the contest. “Coach Smithpeters crossed the line early in the game with his actions toward the game officials,” said Hickman. “He should have been issued a technical foul during the first half for his blatant violation of coach’s box rule. His behavior set a negative tone for the players and fans and contributed to a hostile environment that only grew worse during the first half.”
Hickman also addressed the first quarter technical foul called on a Harrisburg player. “The Harrisburg player had to be restrained by teammates initially and it was clear that the player was still emotionally charged after the technical foul, yet he remained in the contest. I don’t know if I have ever seen that before in a high school basketball game. In my mind, the inaction by the coach contributed to the negative environment of the game,” he said.
The game officials have been reprimanded for failure to enforce the bench conduct rule during the championship game, according to the release.
Hickman said the schools and the officials “all share in the blame for the outcome. We also recognize that the IHSA needs to be more proactive in dealing with on-court behavior and conveying the expectations for appropriate conduct to the players, coaches and officials participating in our events.”
Harrisburg won the game, 50-44, at Carver Civic Center in Peoria to complete a 33-1 season.