East St. Louis ineligible for 7A playoffs
East St. Louis has been forced to forfeit all of its 2009 and 2010 wins and has been removed from this season's playoffs after it was discovered that the Flyers had used an ineligible player in those games, the IHSA announced on Tuesday.
East St. Louis (9-0) was a No. 1 seed in the Class 7A field and was ranked No. 36 in the country by ESPN RISE. They finished 10-3 in 2009.
The IHSA discovered two East St. Louis players were violating the association's residency by-laws. One player was ruled ineligible on Oct. 14 and a second on Oct 22.
"No one wins in these type of situations," IHSA Executive Director Marty Hickman said in a statement. "And while we appreciate the school's cooperation with our investigation, member schools have an obligation to abide by our association by-laws, including the need to have clear enrollment processes in place and the ability to verify residence issues."
East St. Louis' first-round opponent, Belleville West will now play Belleville East. O'Fallon has been given East St. Louis' No. 1 seed and will receive a bye in the opening round.
"Certainly, the timing of this matter is less than ideal, but as much as some would have liked for us to move faster with this investigation, to do so would have been unfair to both the student-athletes and East St. Louis High School," Hickman said. "It was imperative for everyone involved that we gave due diligence to the process and uncovered all applicable information before reaching a decision.
"After giving careful consideration to all options, we felt that the option that impacted the fewest amount of schools and would enable the playoffs to begin as planned was to adjust the quadrant in which East St. Louis had been assigned. The fact of the matter is that we had a complete field of 256 teams on Saturday. To have included the first non-qualifier as a replacement for East St. Louis in the field of qualifiers would have impacted nearly 100 schools, and, in the end, we didn't believe it was fair to those schools that had made travel and scouting plans for their assigned first round games."
Scott Powers covers high school and college sports for ESPNChicago.com and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.