Litigation over Mooseheart basketball players winds down
Mooseheart High School's run in the state high school basketball tournament is over, but litigation involving the eligibility of three Sudanese players is continuing and could be wrapped up in June.
The boys team was eliminated earlier this month in a 3-point loss to Chicagoland Jewish.
Attorneys are due in Kane County court June 4 after appearances last week and in early February were canceled.
The school near Batavia was thrust into the spotlight late last year after Illinois High School Association Executive Director Marty Hickman ruled basketball players Mangisto Deng, Makur Puou and Akim Nyang, and a cross county runner, Wal Khat, were ineligible to compete even though they had sat out a year — following IHSA rules — after transferring to Mooseheart.
The school asked a judge for and was granted a temporary restraining order allowing the trio to play basketball. The IHSA board later ruled the three were eligible, but put Mooseheart on probation until it reviewed its admission procedures, completed staff training on IHSA bylaws, and submitted a compliance program.
The board also ruled that students from A-Hope Foundation, from which the Mooseheart students were referred, or any other group whose purpose is placement of student-athletes in educational settings, should be considered ineligible going forward.
Matt Troha, IHSA assistant executive director, said in an email that Mooseheart completed these three steps and is off probation.
There are no additional steps Mooseheart must perform going forward, and the IHSA attorney believes the June 4 court date is going to be a status report to Judge David Akemann, Troha said.
"(Mooseheart) did everything they were supposed to do," added Peter Rush, one of the attorneys who handled the case for Mooseheart last December. "The boys were allowed to participate in the state tournament. Had things gone better, they could have won. They had their shot."
Rush said the IHSA board will meet in May to consider a change that would not allow students with F-1 visas, which permit longer stays in the country, to compete in high school athletics. The Sudanese athletes have F-1 visas and hope to be grandfathered by the board.
"There's been no interpretation from the IHSA board if the legislation applies (to Mooseheart's four Sudanese athletes)," Rush said. "The main reason we've continued it to June is the answer should be in by then."
IHSA attorney David Bressler could not be reached for comment.
Mooseheart spokesman Kurt Wehrmeister said officials are waiting on "written formal confirmation" that the four athletes will be grandfathered in under the IHSA's ruling and allowed to play going forward.
"We are simply seeking formal notification and that is why this remains and ongoing legal matter," Wehrmeister said.
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