IHSA football proposal sacked

  • Written by Jeff Vorva




We won’t be saying goodbye to Catholic League football.

We won’t be saying “see ya later’’ to the Southwest Suburban.

Nor will we be saying “so long’’ to the South Suburban.

The East Suburban Catholic and Metro Suburban are safe, too.

And it could stay that way for a while.

The Illinois High School Association on Tuesday announced that the general membership rejected Proposal 10 by a 395-212 count.

 The proposal would have eliminated conference play and would have implemented a district system for the regular season based on enrollment and geography. If it passed, it would have been the most dramatic change to the high school football landscape in history and established conferences would have been axed including the Catholic League, which is 100 years strong.

So for the next couple of years, the football in the state is status quo.

The issues that surrounded the reason for the proposal, however, remain. Scheduling nightmares and constant changes among conferences and league are still abundant. Schools creatively scheduling easy non-conference opponents in order to rack up victories to qualify for the postseason also has posed problems.

Tim O’Halloran, who runs the website covering IHSA football and recruiting and is also a football expert on Comcast SportsNet Chicago, wasn’t in favor of the proposal but thinks changes are needed.

“The coaches I talked to who were in favor of it are disappointed because they thought this was a viable solution,” he said. “But when they put this proposal out there and showed what it would look like, I think it scared the bejesus out of a lot of people.

“You saw where Joliet schools were in the same district as the St. Louis area. You had Mt. Carmel playing a bunch of Chicago Public League schools that are located near them. There was a lot of weird stuff out there that may have spooked some schools off. But the scheduling and conferences are still an issue.’’

It’s possible a modified and changed proposal could be up for votes in future years. One thing O’Halloran doesn’t want to see is the playoff structure used by the state to the east of Illinois. Indiana allows all of its football teams into the postseason.

“I don’t even want to go there,” O’Halloran said. “It would alleviate some scheduling issues but we would become Indiana and in my book that would not be a good thing. Then you are just making a complete mockery of your playoff system. I know everyone is eligible for the postseason in basketball and baseball and all of the other sports, but football is different.

“It’s totally different and it should be handled that way.”

Some coaches, including St. Laurence’s Harold Blackmon, were hoping it wouldn’t pass.

“The Catholic League has been a staple of high school football for a very long time,” he said before the vote, which took place in December. “To destroy that is very unfair.”

It’s one of the few proposals to make the ballot to get rejected. Three of the six proposals on the IHSA ballot were not passed this year. The last time a proposal failed to pass was in 2008-09.

From 1999-200 through 2013-14, 133 out of 135 proposals were passed.

A summary of this year’s other proposals:

Proposal 1 (passed 370-239): Allows the Board of Directors to approve international programs that do not appear on the list of the Council on Standards for International Educational Travel (CSIET), and thereby confer eligibility to students in those programs

§  Proposal 5 (passed 375-234): Removes the mid-summer "dead week" provision that was approved last year.

§  Proposal 15 (passed 489-96): Moves the date of the first contest of the girls tennis season four days earlier, to Thursday of Week 7.

§  Proposal 17 (rejected 313-291): Would have removed the season limitation currently in place for Scholastic Bowl.

§  Proposal 18 (rejected 305-299): Would have increased the contest limitation for Scholastic Bowl from 18 dates to 30 dates.

A total of 613 of 810 member schools (75.7 percent) participated in the amendment balloting, a significant increase from last year's 57.3 percent. A new email voting procedure is credited with turning out the vote, yielding the second-highest percentage since 1997.


Robinson rhubarb, Part 2: New allegations surface against JRW team

  • Written by Jeff Vorva


By Jeff Vorva

and Bob Rakow

Staff Reporters

In mid-December, the Evergreen Park Athletic Association’s allegations that the Jackie Robinson West baseball team was using illegal players from out of its boundaries were met with relative indifference by Little League officials.

But it caused some people to do some digging and more allegations are coming out about the team that took Chicago and the nation by storm in the summer.

The website recently reported that the JRW boundaries within the city were expanded without the blessing of some league presidents in District 4. That allowed JRW to pluck prime players off their rosters for the 2014 campaign. JRW made it to the nationals and it allowed them to win the United States championship.

DNAinfo reported that Little League rule say redistricting should “not overlap or encroach another chartered Little League’s boundaries.’’

Little League officials said the presidents of the affected charter signed off on it but that’s being disputed.

DNAinfo cited a Rosemoor Little League official claiming that the new map was sent in without the permission of the presidents who represent Roseland, Rosemoor and South Side leagues.

“I can tell you 200 percent that we didn’t sign off on that map,” Rosemoor Vice President Ricardo Coleman told he website.

Chris Janes, the spokesman for the EPAA which helped light this firestorm, said these new charges against the Jackie Robinson team are even more damning than the EPAA’s allegations of using players from out of districts such as Homewood and South Holland.

“These latest allegations -- which I really had nothing to do with – of usurping other league’s boundaries…that’s out of this world,” Janes said. “It’s scary that they could do that this easily. Four of the kids that were on this year’s championship team were using the addresses of  the boundaries that were of South Side Little League Roseland and Rosemoor. They extended that boundary so they can get those four kids.

“There is no Little League district on the planet that will say ‘we have too many kids, why don’t you take a big portion of my boundaries?’ No way. There is no rationalization for it. Jackie Robinson West has 530 kids participating. Why did they need a bigger boundary? They wanted those four kids.’’

It’s not unlike politicians drawing up new boundaries to help them and their political parties to prosper in a coming election.

“What it called? Gerrymandering?’’  Janes said with a laugh.

According to DNAinfo, Little League officials are looking into the map situation for 2015 but are likely not going to do anything about 2014.

Janes, the vice president of the EPAA, said he does not feel bad for sparking these investigations.

“There’s no justification for them (JRW) to do this,” he said. “I don’t regret doing it at all.”

The EPAA accused JRW of cheating by violating residency rules when it put together the team that competed in the 2014 Little League World Series and won the U.S. title.

Jackie Robinson West’s success was the feel-good story of the summer as a team from Chicago’s South Side came together and rolled through the sectional and state playoffs before winning the U.S. title. They lost the title game to a team from Seoul, Korea.

The team enjoyed significant recognition when players and coaches returned to Chicago from Williamsport, Pa., including a downtown pep rally and appearances at both Wrigley Field and U.S. Cellular Field.

Janes said the optimistic story about an urban youth baseball team advancing to the Little League Word Series despite numerous obstacles was the primary reason no one else wanted to expose the suspected cheating.

The EPAA insists that the team was not made up exclusively of boys from Chicago’s South Side. Rather, they were chosen travel teams that hail from nearby suburbs, Janes said.

Jackie Robinson West officials deny the accusations.

Janes said that EPAA and officials from other neighboring leagues have long suspected that JRW “cherry picked” the best players from the region but the practice was not uncovered until the team’s 2014 championship run.

Janes, the father of three boys who play Evergreen Park Little League, said he’s hopeful that EPAA’s decision to blow the whistle on Jackie Robinson West baseball will force Little League International to take a closer look at similar accusations in the future.

EPAA’s call for an investigation into JRW’s alleged rules violations essentially fell on deaf ears.

A spokesman for Little League International, Brian McClintock, which organizes the Little League World Series, said in an emailed statement the organization is “confident that the documentation provided to the organization from Jackie Robinson West Little League meets the residency regulations for the 2014 Little League Baseball tournament season" and the issue is considered "closed at this time,” according to reports.

The accusations became public when DNAinfo reported that an Internet search found that a congresswoman, a suburban mayor, an elite traveling baseball league and Sports Illustrated posted details about the players' suburban roots.

Specifically, U.S. Rep. Robin Kelly took to Twitter to cheer on Jackie Robinson West players who live and attend school in suburban towns within her district, DNAinfo said.

Additionally, South Holland village officials congratulated the two as “alumni” in a village newsletter, and Sports Illustrated reported in its feature “Faces in the Crowd” that one player attended a school in suburban Homewood.

Lynwood Mayor Mayor Gene Williams also was quoted as in a newspaper about plans to celebrate our own Jackie Robinson West player.

But, according to a map obtained by, the Jackie Robinson West boundaries include sections of the Morgan Park, Washington Heights, Auburn Gresham, Englewood and New City neighborhoods of Chicago — but do not include any suburbs.

Residence must be established and supported with three forms of documentation, the rules say, which include items like a driver's license, voter registration and copies of utility bills.


Firing line -- Brandon Marshall in Palos Heights hours after Bears fire coach and GM

  • Written by Jeff Vorva




Photo by Jeff Vorva

Bears receiver Brandon Marshall was in Palos Heights on Monday, hours before finding out coach Marc Trestman and general manager Phil Emery were fired.

On Monday morning, Bears coach Marc Trestman and general manager Phil Emery were the headliners  fired in Lake Forest.

On Monday afternoon, controversial Bears receiver Brandon Marshall was fired up in Palos Heights.

Marshall hosted his ESPN radio show at Trio Restaurant and Bar and before he even talked about the carnage at Halas Hall, he was busy challenging WMVP announcer to a boxing match and calling him a “clown.’’

Then he got serious and said that this year’s coaching staff featured “some of the best coaches I’ve ever been around” and that going to Halas Hall Monday morning was like “Going to the hospital to see someone who was dead. It was like a funeral. It was sad…really sad.’’

A couple of hundred people – many wearing Marshall jerseys – crammed into the bar to hear the outspoken words of wisdom from the wideout. Not too many of them were somber about the departures.

“This is a phenomenal day,’’   said Orland Park’s Ed Griffin. “It was a disappointing season for diehard fans. We’re ready for next year.’’

Griffin said he would have loved it if former Bears quarterback Jim Harbaugh would have taken Trestman’s place but Harbaugh is heading to the University of Michigan. Griffin said he will settle for Mike Shanahan. A pal at his table, Palos Heights’ Mike Krol said he would like to see former Green Bay coach Mike Holmgren as the new GM with Arizona defensive coordinator Todd Bowles taking over as head coach.

Palos Park’s Rick Griffin, Ed’s brother, said he wants Mike Ditka back as the head coach. He said he was serious. But he sounded like a “Saturday Night Live’’ Da Bears character when he gave his reasoning.

“If’s Ditka versus God, [the score is] God 3, Ditka 478,’’ he joked.  “But this is a great day and a fresh start for the team.’’

Trestman was sacked after two seasons. This year, the team finished 5-11 this year and finished the season with five straight losses. The more galling losses of the season included a 51-23 setback to New England, a 55-13 defeat at the hands of Green Bay and a 41-28 loss to Dallas.

Trestman, whose background is specializing in offense, watched a team that had weapons Marshall, Jay Cutler, Matt Forte and Alshon Jeffery score 17 or fewer points seven times including no touchdowns in Sunday’s 13-9 loss to Minnesota in a battle for last place in the NFC North.

Off the field, the Bears had their share of troubles as well including offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer – who was also whacked on Monday -- ‘fessing up to being an anonymous source ripping Cutler to the NFL Network.

Marshall also had his share of controversy off the field, including challenging a Detroit fan to a fight in the ring for money in November. He also called Detroit Lions center Dominic Raiola a “dirty player and he’s a worse human being.’’

On the field, Marshall caught 61 passes for 721 yards and eight touchdowns but missed the final three games with rib and lung injuries.

Like most fans, Marshall is wondering what the future with hold for the so-called Monsters of the Midway.

“Some of these coaches are amazing coaches and they might not get jobs again,” Marshall said. “The NFL is ‘what have you done for me lately?’ There are a lot of changes coming and that’s what sucks for me. This is my fourth time going through this. Anyone can get fired – myself included. I could be traded. The new regime could come in and ‘you know what? We need to rebuild this thing and we have value in Brandon.’ Players go, too.

“We’re in the best sports market in the world. Ownership is awesome. Get it right. Get it right.’’




Local football players sign on dotted line

  • Written by Ken Karrson


HEADLINE: Local football players sign on dotted line


By Ken Karrson

Sports Editor


Hasan Muhammad-Rogers can relate to what Illinois State University football players recently went through.

A memorable 2014 season by the Redbirds ended one step shy of complete glory. While ISU reached the FCS championship game in January and held a late lead, it couldn’t close the deal versus three-time defending champion North Dakota and had to settle for national runner-up status. Muhammad-Rogers experienced a similar thing at the prep level in 2013 when Richards came up short in Illinois’ Class 6A title contest.

Now Muhammad-Rogers will try to help the Redbirds take that final step and achieve some personal vindication in the process. The 2014 area Player of the Year was one of several local athletes to make their college choices official last Wednesday on National Signing Day.

“This is a great place for him,” Bulldogs coach Tony Sheehan said of the impending ISU-Muhammad-Rogers association. “He is going to a national contender that runs an offense perfect for his abilities.”

Muhammad-Rogers wound up his three-year varsity career at Richards with 6,110 aerial yards on 361-of-670 passing and 72 touchdowns. He also rushed for 1,569 yards and 25 more TDs. With Muhammad-Rogers running the offense, the Bulldogs went 22-4 the past two seasons and collected a total of seven postseason victories between 2012 and 2014.

Muhammad-Rogers isn’t the only local athlete headed to Normal. Also signing on with the Redbirds was Marist’s Jawill Aldridge, who continued to draw interest from ISU despite an injury-plagued senior campaign with the RedHawks.

One of Muhammad-Rogers’ favorite receivers at Richards, Spencer Tears, is headed to Northern Illinois. The “very explosive” Tears should be a “good fit” with the Huskies, according to Sheehan. Joining Tears in DeKalb will be Brother Rice all-stater Marcus Jones, who rushed for over 1,850 yards the past two seasons.

Linebacker Ramontay Hill (South Dakota), cornerback Lucas White (Northern Michigan), cornerback Kentrell Pierce (Central Methodist), lineman Josh Hettiger (Wisconsin-Whitewater) and cornerback Maurice Coleman-Williams (Wisconsin-Stout) were Richards’ other signees. Hill and Hettiger, who will be joining the Division III national champions, were both all-area first-teamers in the fall.

Sheehan believes each of his players can eventually make an impact.

“[White is] a good corner that has the length that a lot of coaches like,” he said. “Pierce is a good cover corner that will only get better and [Coleman-Williams] got better as the year went on.”

Other Rice players who signed last Wednesday were quarterback Alex Alarcon (McKendree) and kicker Spencer Scott (Harvard).

Shepard’s Kyle Dye declared his intention to attend Valparaiso, all-area defensive back Keyon Lansdown will play for Robert Morris and quarterback Chris Henington is going to Lindenwood-Belleville. Evergreen Park’s two signees were quarterback Sean Ryan (Grand View) and receiver Kerron Brown (Washington Christian).

“I am looking forward to see what they can do at the next level,” said Mustangs coach Ray Mankowski, who added other athletes he expected to make a decision last week “are holding out for whatever reason.”

While St. Laurence didn’t announce any football signings, it did have four soccer players make their future intentions known. Mike Witkowski and Josh Niloff will both enroll at Loras, Palos Hills resident will stay in the area by attending St. Xavier and Mikey Stevens is planning to attend Cornell (Iowa).


Wujcik is Hall of a guy

  • Written by Ken Karrson


HEADLINE: Wujcik is Hall of a guy

SUBHEAD: Richards coach honored by IBCA


By Ken Karrson

Sports Editor

            When congratulated recently for his induction into the Illinois Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame, Brian Wujcik jokingly credited his lengthy stay at Richards as the main reason he received the honor.

            “Stick around long enough and someone somewhere thinks you need an award for it,” he said.

            On a more serious note the Bulldogs leader greatly appreciated the gesture as he became just the 11th local coach to be chosen by the IBCA for its Hall of Fame.

“I always pictured Hall of Famers as guys who’ve had tremendous postseason success,” Wujcik said. “With only two regional championships in 22 years, I hardly qualify in that category, so it is a special honor for me to be recognized by my peers for the way the Richards baseball program is run and not the number of state championships we’ve won. 

“We try to do things right here: right by our players, right by our opponents and [the] umpires, and right by the school that we represent. I think we’re very successful in that regard.”

There’s little to argue on those points, particularly when it comes to the student-athletes who have played for Wujcik. More than 80 have gone on to play collegiate baseball, including 15 that are currently active. Nine players achieved all-state status while at Richards, 67 were all-area selections and 110 gained all-conference status.

Program-wise the Bulldogs have captured 10 conference championships and compiled a 448-319 record during Wujcik’s tenure.

“We don’t get the most talented ballplayers at Richards,” he said. “We’ve only had five [NCAA] Division I baseball scholarships in 22 years, but we work hard to give each kid who has the tools, desire, work ethic and grades an opportunity to play at the next level -- wherever they fit in. 

“I’m proud that we currently have 15 former Bulldogs on collegiate rosters [in 2015]. They’ve earned that through hard work and dedication.”

Wujcik also said none of this was accomplished solely because of his coaching influence.

“This award belongs just as much to the guys who’ve coached with me as it does to me,” he said. “I have a tremendous staff. 

“Bob Peck, Chuck McCullough and Kyle Rathbun at the lower levels not only teach our guys the proper fundamentals, but more importantly they teach ballplayers how to work hard and to compete. Jeff Kortz and Kevin Quinn are hardly my ‘assistants’ on the varsity level -- they are my partners. Both are tirelessly dedicated to the kids who come through our program, and Richards baseball is successful because of them.”

Over the years Wujcik has done more than just lead practices and coach in games. He also spearheaded the building of Richards’ baseball complex, widely regarded as one of the Chicagoland area’s finest at the high school level. Wujcik, players and parents volunteered their time to the project and all the construction materials were donated.

Wujcik, a Richards graduate, was a standout at the University of Iowa. He still holds the Big Ten record for most RBI in one game (10) and previously held the mark for most doubles in a season with 12. He also won a conference batting championship.

In 1990 he was named the Hawkeyes’ MVP while earning All-Big Ten and all-region first-team honors. He was a two-time member of the Big Ten’s All-Academic team and received GTE Academic All-America second-team recognition.

The most recent IBCA inductee prior to Wujcik was former cross-town rival Skip Sullivan, who was chosen in 2008 following a 14-year head-coaching career at Oak Lawn. Like Wujcik, Sullivan coached at his alma mater.

Other local members of the IBCA Hall of Fame include Oak Lawn’s Skip Borkowski (1994), Sandburg’s Doug Sutor (2005) and Ron Mellen (1984), St. Xavier University’s Mike Dooley (2005) and Tony D’Anza (2002), Brother Rice’s George Sedlacek (1979), Evergreen Park’s Maynard Stelzer (1983) and Marist’s Don Kuehner (1980) and Joel Jonas (1983). Jonas was selected following a coaching stint at Curie.