Coach: One man's look at the Maine South football situation
If I had a dollar for anyone who asked me "Jon, so what do you think of the Maine South football controversy?" I would be a very lucky man.
For the uninitiated, Maine South and its powerhouse football team recently had to forfeit all its games from the past season for using players who apparently lived outside official school boundaries.
As far as I can tell that's all that has been reported. We know no more details of what happened, so it is a little hard to comment. But I will!
Note, most importantly, the comments below are the thoughts of just one person, one columnist, one outsider looking in. I have no inside information, no inner knowledge, no secret sources feeding me information.
These are just some items from my perspective on the situation and the long-standing football rivalry of Glenbrook South and Glenbrook North with their friends from just to the west.
So having said that, here is my response to "Jon, what do you think of the Maine South football controversy?"
• Why even bring it up in this newspaper? Because there has been a long-standing "feeling" in the Glenview football community that Maine South gets players from beyond its boundaries, giving the team an unfair advantage, and that is why they are so good.
I have been told this, hinted to, and sometimes directly confronted with accusations like this from high school football fans in the area, and parents in particular. To note, none of these comments ever came with any level of substantiation, or factual information, just more like "this is what I have heard" type comments. Nevertheless, the "feeling" has been out there for many years.
• A brief history: Maine South football has been one of the dominant programs in the state, and really in the country, for the past 25 years. They have had an amazing run of superior football over an extended period of time. Included are six state titles, and a streak of conference championships that went 15 years and 77 straight games before finally being broken one momentous time back in 2016 when New Trier finally got them. Since that loss, they have continued the winning streak.
• I have often kidded - sometimes a bit more than kidded - with friends and football fans in our Glenview and Northbrook community who perpetually complain about "why can't we beat Maine South." My response usually is "Hey, GBS has gone (for example) 8-3, 9-2, 7-5 and 11-1 the past four seasons and you worry about not beating Maine South? Can't you just enjoy the fact we have a winning program?"
Maine South football envy has been a real and concrete thing with Titan and Spartan fans over the past couple decades.
• I have personally known the coaches who have led Maine South during this dominant 25-year run. All three in my experience are top-quality, high-character people, teachers and coaches.
• I also worked at one time with a high-ranking Maine East athletic department individual (who shall remain unnamed), who pretty much shot down the whole controversy.
One time while hanging over the field fence during a Maine East soccer game, I casually brought up the topic with this gentleman. Expecting a "no comment," he instead told me in no uncertain terms that it does NOT happen, and that boundaries are strict, and the school does not lose any football players to Maine South. Again, this coming from a Maine East guy who was directly involved with their football program.
• As for the issue that just came out in the past few weeks, a multitude of questions are left unanswered. How many players were involved? Was it just one? Or was it numerous players? Did the coaches know about this during the season? If so, was it one coach, or numerous coaches? Who initiated the illegal transfer - coach, parent, player? Was this an isolated, one-year situation?
I would need to know the answers to these questions before making any real comments. We do know Maine South self-reported the incident and has willingly accepted the forfeiture of the games from last season.
• It's important to keep in mind that while schools try to enforce boundaries, it is difficult and far from a perfect science. This is true not just for athletes; there are numerous cases of parents fudging the system to get their kids to attend a chosen school. Many are caught, but some are not. It is difficult to catch each case and some kids do sneak through the cracks.
Maine South football has been so good for so many years, and I have always respected the way they play - not just the winning, but the way they go about it: working incredibly hard, tremendous offseason commitment, close connection with their feeder program, and an exciting, wide-open style of football that produces high scoring excitement on a regular basis.
In addition, they have cranked out numerous college and pro players over the years (most recently soon-to-be high first-round NFL draft choice Peter Skoronski from Northwestern) and have certainly given the town of Park Ridge much to cheer about over these winning years.
• The trophy for conference championship has been delivered to Glenbrook South. With the forfeits, the Titans have technically won last season's conference title. I am not sure there is any reason for any kind of celebration at this point, but the trophy does rightfully take its place in the Titan hardware display.
The story ends here. Let's hope.
• Jon Cohn of Glenview is a coach, retired PE teacher, sports official and prep sports fan. To contact him with comments or story ideas, email firstname.lastname@example.org.