The Proviso East High School football team – which appeared to have made the state playoffs for the first time in two decades after beating intradistrict rival Proviso West last week to notch its sixth win — has been disqualified from competing in the Illinois High School Association playoffs, according to a letter IHSA officials sent District 209 officials on Oct. 23.

“The ruling is that there were two students who were in violation of IHSA bylaws,” said Cynthia Moreno, communications director for Proviso High School District 209. “One student’s residency cannot be verified and the other student was ineligible to play due to being beyond the eight consecutive semesters allowed for students to participate in IHSA activities.”

She declined to identify the students. However, the school did say in a phone call with Forest Park Review on Oct. 29 that the student who already played eight consecutive semesters is a transfer student.

In the letter, IHSA officials said that based on the information they found, Proviso East is required to forfeit its wins against North Chicago, Addison Trail, Leyden and Morton.

In a statement released on behalf of District 209 on Oct. 23, Moreno said that the District 209 administration became aware of the IHSA violations after Colbert “self-reported the inconsistency to the IHSA.” On Oct. 29, Colbert would categorize this as a “system problem that [Proviso East needs] to correct.” 

The school is conducting its own internal investigation and didn’t give a specific timetable for when it would be concluded. Proviso East’s athletic director, Brian Colbert, did say they hope to have it done “in a couple weeks.”

“We want to be sure that we have everything we need to make a clear determination and how we can look to correct this situation to make sure it won’t happen again,” said Colbert. “We are looking into the systems of registration for transfer athletes, how we receive notification of their residency, and their academic history and communicating that information from the coaches to the athletic department.”

Proviso East maintains that it checks every athlete’s eligibility before each season. For transfer students, the IHSA requires the previous school to fill out a principal’s concurrence form. Both the school that the athlete previously attended and the school that the athlete wants to attend must approve the form.

At the top of the form, the IHSA states:

“When a student transfers to a member school from any other high school, the receiving school principal/official representative must promptly complete and exchange this form with the principal/official representative of the sending school. Note: A student is not eligible to participate in an interscholastic contest until the Principals’ Concurrence Regarding Transfer Form is fully executed by both principals and is on file in the offices of the school to which the student transfers.”

When asked if the problem with the transcript was on the other school’s end, Colbert declined to get into the specifics of the transcript.

Colbert offered that head coach Oliver Speller is “hurt” and “disappointed.” 

“We had a very good year, and the concern isn’t only with the two athletes that were involved but also for the other players that played hard, did some great things, and had their dream taken away from them.”

On Oct. 18, the Pirates beat Proviso West 14-8, which put the program in line for its first playoff appearance in 20 years. After the forfeited wins, they were no longer in contention for the playoffs.

A district official sent this statement to Forest Park Review from D209 school board President Ned Wagner. 

“Our priority as a school community is to work with our student-athletes during this difficult time and let them know that they are valued and loved,” said Wagner. “We will use this opportunity to learn about our systems and implement changes in alignment of IHSA regulations.  Our community can rest assured that this experience will serve us as a means to promote excellence for all.”

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