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Curie forfeits all wins including CPS title

Cliff Alexander clebraites after wover Young Worsom Robinson/For Sun-Time Media

Cliff Alexander clebraites after the won over Young Worsom Robinson/For Sun-Time Media

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Updated: March 1, 2014 5:53PM



Curie, the No. 1-ranked basketball team in the state and No. 2 in the country, according to USA Today, was stripped of its 24 victories and the city championship Friday.

A Chicago Public Schools investigation revealed that seven players had been ineligible since the beginning of the season. CPS said that the players would have been eligible if the proper forms were filed with the CPS office.

“Students whose GPAs fall below 2.0 are ineligible except when they have signed and certified ISP [Independent Study Program] forms,” CPS representative Joel Hood said. “In this particular case, they did not have the ISPs on file. We believe that this is a case of the adults letting the students down.”

The players weren’t named, and CPS won’t name a city champion this season. CPS said Curie is eligible to compete in the state tournament, which begins Monday, because the Illinois High School Association and CPS have different eligibility requirements. The IHSA wouldn’t confirm that Curie would be allowed to play in the state tournament. Curie’s first game is scheduled for Tuesday.

“We are unable to make an official comment until reviewing the final report from the CPS athletic administration on the investigation,” IHSA executive director Marty Hickman said in a statement. “We hope to be in a position to do so by Monday.”

Condors coach Mike Oliver will be suspended for an amount of time to be determined by CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett.

An anonymous phone call to CPS triggered the investigation hours before Curie was scheduled to play Young for the city title Feb. 21 in a game broadcast live on ESPN3.com.

CPS officials’ initial probe uncovered enough eligibility issues to delay Curie’s arrival at Chicago State, site of the title game. The team bus left Curie several hours behind schedule, and the game began 30 minutes late. The decision to let Curie play was a practical one — the arena was full and a live broadcast crew was waiting.

The four-overtime game was an all-time classic featuring Chicago’s best big men in a generation, Young’s Jahlil Okafor and Curie’s Cliff Alexander. The highlights led the late edition of “SportsCenter.”

Rumors about the investigation floated around the city all day Saturday. On Sunday evening, CPS confirmed to the Sun-Times that an investigation was under way. The inquiry dragged on all week. For three days, CPS representatives claimed the investigation was drawing to a close, but there was no announcement until Friday evening.

“I feel bad for the kids, the school, the entire program,” Young coach Tyrone Slaughter said. “Mike [Oliver] is a good man. This is scathing.”

“I’m glad they didn’t award it to us. We lost the ballgame on the court. We didn’t want it. We would not accept it if they did award it to us because we did not win the game.”

According to CPS rules, teams are required to exchange eligibility sheets before every game. The eligibility sheet lists all of the players who are eligible to play in that game. The rule is rarely followed or enforced. CPS said that Curie’s seven ineligible players wouldn’t have appeared as eligible on any of Curie’s eligibility sheets this season.

Oliver and Slaughter both said they didn’t exchange eligibility sheets before the title game. Other prominent CPS coaches have said that the eligibility sheet exchange simply never happens once a team reaches the elite eight of the Public League playoffs, that the teams trust their opponents to only play eligible players.

“Whatever happens happens, but years from now when my son has a child, the stories we will tell will be about how Curie, the underdog, beat Young,” Crystal Robinson, the mother of Curie’s Keenan Robinson, said Wednesday. “They will always have those moments on the court.”

Email: mobrien@suntimes.com

Twitter: @michaelsobrien



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