In the annals of wild and kooky schemes aimed at impacting high school sporting events, a new entry from Illinois might just take the cake.
As reported by the Chicago Tribune and a variety of other local outlets, a group of parents and the alumni association from Simeon Career Academy (Chicago) has filed a lawsuit against the Illinois High School Association claiming that the father of a player for Nazareth Academy (La Grange Park, Ill.) dressed up like an official and was involved in referee conferences during the game.
Key to the lawsuit is that the parent in question is also a high school football referee himself, though he obviously was not working the Nazareth-Simeon game.
Here’s how the Tribune described the allegations against the Nazareth parent:
The lawsuit alleges a parent of a player from Nazareth wore his referee uniform and was involved in calls the referee crew made though he was not officiating the Nov. 10 game. The father allegedly spoke to the referees, stood on the sidelines and was later seen alongside referees in an area where only officials are supposed to be, according to the lawsuit.
That’s pretty comprehensive involvement for someone who should be in the stands, regardless of whether his intervention had a material impact on the outcome of the game.
Since defeating Simeon in a tight, 34-27 game on November 10, Nazareth rolled past Batavia and on to the state title game, which will be held against St. Charles North on Saturday.
It’s too late for Simeon to magically advance on to that game now, but the lawsuit filed on behalf of the team hopes to keep Nazareth from competing for a crown by striking the quarterfinal entirely, essentially negating the result from the history books. They have also asked that the father involved and the other referees who worked the game be barred from officiating future games.
“I think it’s important that we stand up for these kids,” attorney Shay Allen, part of the team representing the Simeon groups, told the Tribune. “They’ve worked hard. Sports are a metaphor for life. If you work hard at something, you should get a good result.”
No matter the rationale behind the case, it’s clear that Simeon and its backers have a mountain to climb to overturn the result that went against them. As noted by the Tribune, a 2016 legal challenge by Fenwick High School (Oak Park, Ill.) that attempted to overturn a playoff loss to Plainfield (Ill.) North High School was rejected by a judge who ruled players did not have a legal right that must be protected.
The parent allegedly involved in the scheme has so far refused public comment, as has the IHSA and all others affiliated with the Nazareth program, which instead is focused on Saturday’s state title matchup. That’s a natural approach … assuming it is allowed to compete in the game.