Anthony Smith is free to coach high school basketball again.
The controversial ex-Homewood-Flossmoor coach,who had been suspended indefinitely by the Illinois High School Association since Feb. 19 amid allegations of recruiting violations, was reinstated to coaching eligibility by the IHSA board of directors at a meeting on Tuesday.
The board also announced that it had closed the investigation into H-F’s athletic programs.
“We appreciate the cooperation of Homewood-Flossmoor High School and its administration throughout this process,” IHSA executive director Marty Hickman said in a written statement. “They were forthcoming in providing the board with the information they needed to make this decision.
“Given that they have worked diligently to rectify the processes and procedures that allowed these violations to occur, the board felt it was prudent to close the investigation and reinstate Coach Smith.”
Smith is eligible to coach at any IHSA member school immediately, the statement said.
“We’re all incredibly happy about this decision,” Smith’s lawyer, Patrick Mayerbock said. “It’s absolutely what I expected. I’m obviously happy for Tony, because this is a big step in the right direction, which is getting him back doing what he does best.”
Smith was unavailable for comment.
The IHSA decision came a week after Smith was dismissed from his coaching and teaching positions by the H-F school board, which voted 4-3 not to renew his contract for the 2014-15 school year.
Smith’s one-year tenure at the school had been marked by allegations of recruiting violations after six transfer students were given spots on the team. A lawsuit by one of the players on the team filed in mid-January sought to have the transfers declared ineligible and Smith removed as coach.
After H-F sent the IHSA a report in mid-February indicating that an internal inquiry turned up open-gym violations by the school and participation violations by players and the coach, the IHSA’s sweeping action removed the Vikings from the Class 4A state playoffs and declared all of their regular-season games forfeits.
The IHSA, meanwhile, suspended Smith indefinitely pending further investigation of alleged recruiting violations.
On March 28, the lawyer for the unidentified Vikings player dropped the lawsuit against the school, citing cost and the player’s wish to complete the school year more comfortably.
Andrew principal Bob Nolting, a member of the 10-person IHSA board of directors, said that the vote was unanimous to restore Smith’s eligibility to coach.
“It was very clear that Dr. Hickman felt like they (at H-F) have done everything within the expectations and their power to get more under compliance,” Nolting said. “The decision was that no further action was going to be taken in regard to the H-F girls basketball program.”
Nolting indicated that there was no discussion of the allegations by a player that Smith had broken recruiting rules with the transfer of four players from Bolingbrook and one each from Marist and Plainfield East.
“My understanding was that the lawsuit itself was dropped and that kind of ended the case on that,” Nolting said. “I am comfortable with the fact that we were provided all of the paperwork that was necessary to suggest that H-F did their due diligence for checking residency and determining that they had academic eligibility at their school.”