Curie will have to give up its city championship but its seven academically ineligible players might be allowed to participate in the upcoming state tournament.
Curie coach Mike Oliver will not.
A week after Curie beat Young 69-66 in four overtimes to win its first Public League title, Chicago Public Schools announced through a written statement Friday evening that Curie, which was 24-1, must forfeit all its victories because the seven unnamed players were found to be academically ineligible since the start of the season.
While the CPS statement said they’re all eligible to participate in the state tournament, which begins Monday, Illinois High School Association executive director Marty Hickman said in a written statement that, “We are unable to make an official comment until reviewing the final report from the CPS Athletic Administration on the investigation. We hope to be in a position to do so by Monday.”
The IHSA and CPS have different eligibility standards.
The IHSA reversed its ruling on the eligibility of Bogan, Uplift and Hyde Park on Thursday. The state’s No. 1-ranked girls basketball team, Homewood-Flossmoor, was disqualified from the state playoffs on the eve of the tournament.
Homewood-Flossmoor was declared ineligible for breaking workout and summer participation rules, while Bogan, Uplift and Hyde Park played too many games but were given a reprieve after originally being declared ineligible.
Curie, ranked No. 1 by the Tribune since the second week of the season, will maintain its No. 1 seed in the Class 4A Marist Sectional.
Oliver is suspended “for a period to be determined by CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett,” according to the release, and “all other disciplinary actions are personnel decisions and confidential.”
The veteran coach did not return messages immediately following the announcement. He said earlier Friday he was in the dark about the investigation.
“I don’t even know who they’re investigating,” Oliver said.
The investigation into the players' eligibility was triggered by an anonymous tip just before Curie was to board the bus for the city championship game Feb. 21.
CPS spokeswoman Keiana Barrett said Curie was allowed to play because “there was a great deal of coordination and conversation with the principal, athletic director and coach in determining eligibility, and they were explicit that the players were eligible.”
Since Feb. 21, Barrett said additional conversations took place, and the CPS looked at other documentations and guidelines “to substantiate various claims” and determined some of the players were not eligible.
CPS officials believe the players will be eligible for the state tournament because they currently are passing their classes.
District spokesman Joel Hood said the students could have remained eligible despite GPAs below 2.0 with an individual study plan (ISP).
“If the seven students had ISPs, they would have been eligible to play,” Hood said. “CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett didn’t feel the kids were at fault, and that the adults failed the children.”
Young will not be awarded the city championship, a decision both principal Joyce Kenner and coach Tyrone Slaughter agreed with.
Oliver said earlier in the week he was certain Young was not behind the investigation. Kenner reiterated that in an email Friday afternoon.
“We lost the game in a fair contest and as far as I’m concerned that will be the outcome for us,” Kenner said. “It is unfortunate this had to happen. I have known Mr. Oliver and Mr. Perry (Curie principal Phillip Perry) for many years. Without a doubt they know Whitney Young had no involvement in the allegations leveled against them.”
The teams could meet again for the sectional championship. Curie center Cliff Alexander and Young center Jahlil Okafor are considered the two best frontcourt players in the country.
Noreen Ahmed-Ullah is a Tribune reporter; Mike Helfgot is a freelance reporter.