Maine South football penalized with suspension, probation
Football on probation; school can't host 2 playoff rounds
Seven weeks after Maine South claimed its third straight Class 8A football title, the IHSA finally flagged the program for unsportsmanlike conduct and other sideline infractions that occurred during its playoff march.
The football program was placed on probation until Dec. 1, and the Park Ridge school will not be allowed to host playoff games until it demonstrates "compliance with IHSA policies," according to an announcement by Illinois High School Association Executive Director Marty Hickman.
In addition, Hawks head coach Dave Inserra and assistant coach Rick Magsamen will be suspended for Week 1 of next fall's football season, including the opening game.
While prohibited from hosting a game for the first two playoff rounds, the team can still qualify for the playoffs, and the IHSA left the door open for Maine South to appeal for an opportunity to host a third-round game.
Practically speaking, a two-game playoff hosting suspension would likely mean Maine South missing out on one opportunity to host, since the system used by the IHSA to determine which team gets to host a game usually makes it difficult for a team to host multiple consecutive home games. And since Maine South is frequently one of the top-ranked schools in Class 8A, it normally plays a relatively weak opponent in the first week. Last fall the Hawks hosted Notre Dame in the first round and won 47-0.
Maine South's program came under investigation after IHSA officials confiscated counterfeit sideline passes at the championship game Nov. 26 at Memorial Stadium in Champaign. Security personnel also reported problems with removing people with fake passes, and IHSA representatives reported that Inserra acted inappropriately at the awards ceremony after the Hawks' 28-7 victory over Mount Carmel.
Other infractions included too many alumni on the sidelines as well as failure to comply with the number of coaches allowed on the field and in the press box at the state finals.
"There were a litany of indiscretions that took place at the state finals this year, and that situation was compounded by issues that occurred at other playoff games," Hickman said in a statement released Friday.
"That established a pattern of behavior in our minds and thus, it became important to look at the program as a whole," Hickman said. "From a state final perspective, it was important for us to look at this not only from a safety and sportsmanship perspective, but also to gauge if Maine South had gained a competitive advantage by having more than the allowable number of coaches on the field and in the coaches' press box."
Maine South's compliance will be evaluated by the IHSA after a minimum of two playoff games. The school also must submit a plan to establish institutional control of the football program and a plan to improve sportsmanship by fans, coaches and players.
The IHSA will also retain a portion of Maine South's playoff reimbursement, which was withheld during the course of the investigation, to compensate for lost gate receipts at all levels of the playoffs over the past several years.
"It was important that these penalties represented the seriousness of the actions," Hickman said. "We wanted to make it clear that it couldn't just be an apology and then back to business as usual. Based on the talks and meeting we have had with Maine South since the state finals, I am confident that their administration and coaching staff have already taken steps in the right direction and are going to work diligently to prevent something like this from happening again."