An eligibility ordeal in Chicago that has drawn national attention did not shake up the Student Sports FAB 50 — at least not this week. Top-ranked Curie of Chicago had all of its regular season wins forfeited, but on Monday the IHSA ruled the Condors can compete in the Illinois Class 4A state tournament. Curie will have a tough road to a state title while the mythical national title hopes of another public school in the Pacific Northwest became much stronger due to another key off-the-court development.
By Ronnie Flores & Mark Tennis
Contributing: Doug Huff
Considering the circumstances in which the Curie of Chicago boys basketball team was allowed to play for the Chicago Public League championship and subsequently stripped of its title, it wasn’t a big surprise that the Illinois High School Association announced Monday afternoon the Condors will be eligible to play in this year’s state tournament.
According to the Chicago Sun-Times, IHSA Executive Director Marty Hickman confirmed the Curie will have nine eligible players for the state tournament. According to the report, one of the eligible players is Mr. Basketball USA front-runner Cliff Alexander, but the Condors reportedly will be without backcourt standouts Joseph and Josh Stamps.
Just hours before Curie met Whitney Young (Chicago) for the CPL crown on February 21, the Condors were investigated for potentially using ineligible players. Curie was given the go-ahead to play in the game even though the issue wasn’t resolved beforehand. The Condors defeated Whitney Young in a dramatic four-overtime game to retain the No. 1 ranking in the Student Sports FAB 50.
The Curie investigation dragged on into the next week with Chicago Public Schools reps stating the inquiry was near a resolution for three consecutive days. Finally, last Friday evening, the CPS ruled seven Curie players were ineligible since the beginning of the season. The Condors had to forfeit all 24 of their wins (they lost one game on the court) and the program’s first-ever city crown.
With its short-handed roster and without head coach Mike Oliver (who was suspended indefinitely), Curie is able to continue on in the state tournament because IHSA eligibility rules differ from those of the CPS. Curie maintained its top seed in the Class 4A Marist Sectional as well and will play the winner of Monday night’s Argo-DuSable on Tuesday night at King (Chicago) in a regional semifinal showdown.
Adults Play Big Role
Ironically, the CPS stated if the proper forms were filed the seven players would have been eligible. With this Curie ordeal, it’s evident the adults played a big role in something which is supposed to be decided by student-athletes. In fact, polarizing figures such as the Rev. Jesse Jackson have gotten involved in this situation. A day after the ruling, Curie parents and players met with Jackson to rally support for Curie’s city title and Oliver to be reinstated.
“To come to them a few hours before the biggest game of the year…is wrong,” Jackson told the Chicago Tribune. “And then to strip them of their title is punishing them. These kids didn’t break any rules. Adults did not do their work.”
We wish situations such as this one never escalate to where a change.org petition is created, especially when it involves high school basketball because quite frankly there are bigger social issues to tackle. Eligibility issues like this one arise around the country every season, but when it happens to the nation’s top-ranked team in basketball-crazed Chicago, fingers get pointed by adults when student-athletes are supposed to decide championships on the court.
Now For The On-Court Stuff
Curie was promptly dropped in some national polls, but not in the Student Sports FAB 50 and the reason is clear. We don’t “reward” teams for wins they didn’t earn on the court and never have since the FAB 50s began more than 15 years ago. Nobody at Whitney Young would have felt it won the city title if the CPL would have awarded it to the Dolphins following the ruling. As competitive as coach Kevin Boyle and his players at Montverde Academy (Montverde, Fla.) are, we’d also take an educated guess that all of a sudden they don’t feel like they won that game at the Hoophall Classic.
We note forfeit wins and losses by asterisk and rank accordingly to where we believe the team should be ranked based on its on-court results.
If Curie had been removed from the state tournament, its ranking would have been different because the Condors wouldn’t have ended their season with a strong enough schedule to warrant a No. 1 ranking. For now, Curie is being judged based on its on-court body of work and it will be ranked accordingly as it potentially wins — or loses — in the Class 4A tournament. It doesn’t matter that Curie is shorthanded players or without its coach, it is being judged on its body of work through last week and next week will yield the same rankings formula.
One aspect that makes the situation even more interesting is Alexander reportedly is one of the players that remains eligible. Without Alexander, Curie in all likelihood wouldn’t have a chance at a state title but with him the Condors’ faithful remains optimistic despite all the distractions.
Rainier Beach To The Big Apple?
Some might not agree with this stance about forfeits, but the season is far from over. Also, we’d rather let the results play out on the court than drop a No. 1 team that didn’t lose on the court. In fact, we saw that happen this week with Mater Dei (Santa Ana, Calif.) in another national poll with no off-court issues like the ones facing Curie.
In the FAB 50, it was thought Mater Dei would eventually hop Rainier Beach of Seattle if the Monarchs started beating other FAB 50 ranked teams in the CIF Southern Section Open Division playoffs. Instead, it was announced last week that Rainier Beach will be allowed to participate in the Dick’s Sporting Goods National High School Tournament — in New York and on ESPN — provided it wins a Class 3A state title this weekend.
If Curie loses on the court in the Illinois state playoffs – which could happen with two key starters out of its lineup — then a possible No. 1 vs. No. 2 FAB 50 final could then take place in New York between Montverde Academy and Rainier Beach. Of course, both teams would have to make the final and that won’t be easy. It’s too bad Mater Dei can’t get into that field, but that opens up a completely different can of beans with a major organization such as the California Interscholastic Federation.
Updated Student Sports FAB 50
Boys Basketball National Team Rankings
(10th poll of the 2013-14 regular season; Through games played on Sunday, March 2; Previous ranking in parentheses; *Indicates forfeit wins, forfeit losses not included.)
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*Indicates forfeit wins, forfeit losses not included.
Dropped Out: Previous No. 20 Etiwanda (Etiwanda, Calif.); No. 21 Centennial (Corona, Calif.); No. 35 Loyola (Los Angeles, Calif.); No. 40 Irmo (Irmo, S.C.); No. 43 Cape Henry Collegiate (Virginia Beach, Va.); No. 49 Potomac (Dumfries, Va.).
Bubble Teams: Allentown Central Catholic (Allentown, Pa.) 27-0; Archbishop Carroll (Radnor, Pa.) 21-4; Ballard (Louisville, Ky.) 33-5; Blue Valley Northwest (Overland Park, Kan.) 18-2; Cape Henry Collegiate (Virginia Beach, Va.) 26-1; Capital Christian (Sacramento, Calif.) 25-3; Centennial (Corona, Calif.) 25-3; Chaminade (St. Louis, Mo.) 23-2; Eastside (Paterson, N.J.) 21-1; Etiwanda (Etiwanda, Calif.) 26-4; Fossil Ridge (Fort Collins, Colo.) 24-0; Garfield (Seattle, Wash.) 24-1; Greensboro Day (Greensboro, N.C.) 29-5; Hamilton (Memphis, Tenn.) 21-6; Hillcrest (Simpsonville, S.C.) 25-4; Jackson (Mill Creek, Wash.) 23-1; Johnson (St. Paul, Minn.) 26-2; Jonesboro (Jonesboro, Ark.) 25-3; Linden (Linden, N.J.) 19-4; Lone Peak (Highland, Utah) 19-3; McComb (McComb, Miss.) 29-1; Monte Vista (Danville, Calif.) 26-1; New Castle (New Castle, Pa.) 26-0; North Little Rock (North Little Rock, Ark.) 23-2; O’Connell (Arlington, Va.) 18-11; Orr (Chicago, Ill.) 20-4; Patrick School (Elizabeth, N.J.) 20-5; Potomac (Dumfries, Va.) 27-1; Simeon (Chicago, Ill.) 18-6*; St. Edward (Lakewood, Ohio) 21-2; St. Joseph (Metuchen, N.J.) 24-2; Washington (Charles Town, W. Va.) 21-0; Wesleyan Christian Academy (High Point, N.C.) 24-9; Westchester (Los Angeles, Calif.) 28-5; West Linn (West Linn, Ore.) 19-4.
Note: The STUDENT SPORTS FAB 50 is a continuation of the National Sports News Service ratings that began in 1952. These were the first national high school rankings and they were compiled by the late Art Johlfs of Minnesota. They were compiled for many years by the late Barry Sollenberger of Phoenix, who merged them into the FAB 50 14 years ago.