UPDATE: Judge Lets Mooseheart Basketball Players Compete—Until IHSA Hearing Monday
Mooseheart Child City gets a temporary restraining order following the IHSA ruling that makes four Sudanese students ineligible.
A Kane County judge has granted a temporary restraining order that will allow four South Sudanese students to play basketball for Mooseheart until an IHSA hearing on Dec. 10.
Judge David Akemann said three students could play basketball for the Red Ramblers in games on Tuesday and Wednesday, according to a news release from Mooseheart. The Sudanese players helped secure a 53-21 Mooseheart victory Tuesday against Westminster Christian.
“I am definitely pleased with Judge Akemann’s ruling (Tuesday) with the restraining order,” Mooseheart Executive Director Scott Hart said. “It’s a small victory and we appreciate the ability to let the boys continue to play until we have a full hearing before the IHSA Board of Directors.”
The Illinois High School Association had previously ruled that four young men — Mangisto Deng, Makur Puou, Hakim Nyang and Wal Khat — were ineligible to play high school sports. Deng, Puou and Nyang are on the basketball team; Khat ran cross country.
All four were recommended by one of 1,700 referral agencies that have worked with Mooseheart, and were admitted in May 2011, according to the news archive of the Mooseheart website.
"They came from war-torn South Sudan, and we accepted these students because they needed a nurturing home and education," the website article says.
The four transfer students sat out last season, but Khat participated in the full cross-country season and the three basketball players compted during four games in 2012. Nyang is 7-foot-1 tall, Puou 6-10 and Deng 6-7.
In 2011, "the IHSA deliberated and notified Mooseheart of the 365-day transfer sit-out rule to comply with IHSA regulations. After this time, the IHSA released all four young men as eligible to play interscholastic sports during the 2012-13 school year," the Mooseheart article says.
The IHSA rescinded that eligibility on Nov. 29, when IHSA Executive Director Marty Hickman said the players were ineligible "due to the IHSA’s perception that these young men were 'recruited' to compete in athletics at Mooseheart," according to the Mooseheart website.
"We do not understand why the status of their eligibility is in question," it says.
The IHSA’s notification to Mooseheart stated that the move came after “an exhaustive investigation” and that notification cited IHSA Rule 3.071 and 3.073 as reasons the three players were being suspended.
Rule 3.071 is a prohibition on recruiting — regardless of the student’s residence or transfer status. Rule 3.073 is a prohibition on inducing or encouraging students to attend a school so they may participate in athletics — even if gifts or money are not involved.
“I have no doubt that if Mooseheart did something wrong, they would be pleased and happy to accept the penalty for it,” said Peter G. Rush, the attorney representing Mooseheart. “It’s not in the nature of the organization to skirt or hide from responsibility for what they’ve done. They take responsibility for their own lives but for the lives of thousands of others over 100 years.”
The Ramblers have three contests this week, a home contest they won on Tuesday against Westminster Christian, a 7:15 p.m. contest on Wednesday game at Hinckley-Big Rock and a 6 p.m. Saturday encounter with La Lumiere School in LaPorte, IN.
Mooseheart filed a temporary restraining order on Tuesday in order to let the young men compete prior to a full IHSA Board hearing scheduled for Dec. 10.
"Our main priority, as it is with all children at Mooseheart, continues to be providing them with a home and accredited education. ... All of our students deserve an opportunity to have a well-rounded experience at Mooseheart, and interscholastic sports are part of that experience. We will continue to support these four students, and any others who we feel have been unjustly punished, by the IHSA or other organizations which may impact their lives."
According to a report in the Kane County Chronicle, the injunction was considered Tuesday morning at a hearing in front of Akemann.
According to the memorandum seeking the restraining order, the IHSA suddenly announced that the players were ineligible "based on a secret investigation but not fact."
"The timing beyond suspect, but most importantly made (at a) moment which ensured Mooseheart and the African students would he denied their fundamental right to a fair hearing before the maximum stain and pain of the announcement could made indelible."
The memorandums argues that:
"(a) the investigator lied to Mooseheart when it asked what the investigator was doing;
"(b) the announcement relies only on frightening speculation and paranoid innuendo rather than the sworn evidence and facts actually presented;
"(c) not withstanding his multiple maneuvers, the inestigator never obtained any new information to allow the Executive Director to renege on his July 2011 Proclamation;
"(d) at the end of the failed effort, the Executive Director contessed to Mooseheart that its archrival — Hinckley-BigRock —was behind it all; and
"(e) the IHSA sat by silently as one of the African Students competed for an entire IHSA cross country season and the other three African Students competed for the Mooseheart basketball team through last week."