Schools Boss Suggests Future of Preps Sports at Stake

By Kyla Gardner on January 23, 2013 1:49pm | Updated on January 23, 2013 8:46pm

 Simeon basketball coach Robert Smith and Morgan Park coach Nick Irvin have been suspended for “unprofessional conduct” at a game between the schools Jan. 16. A scuffle broke out between players in the handshake line.
Simeon basketball coach Robert Smith and Morgan Park coach Nick Irvin have been suspended for “unprofessional conduct” at a game between the schools Jan. 16. A scuffle broke out between players in the handshake line.
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CHICAGO — The basketball coaches of Simeon and Morgan Park high school basketball have been suspended for four games in light of a scuffle between players after the game, while the schools boss said the future of prep sports is at stake.

Simeon's Robert Smith and Morgan Park's Nick Irvin were suspended on Wednesday for unprofessional conduct "through both their words and actions" at the Jan. 16 game at Chicago State University, according to a statement from CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett.

In a later statement addressing expectations for CPS athletic coaches, Byrd-Bennett suggested that sports programs could be eliminated if conduct among adult leaders doesn't improve.

Saying that coaches are role models who students look to "for guidance, encouragement, and sound advice," Byrd-Bennett said that "public tirades and verbal altercations between coaches, and/or that occur in front of students, jeopardize the future of our sports programs."

"Children's lives are at stake," she said, adding that how administrators and coaches work together to address unruly behavior will decide whether the CPS sports program is "promoted or eliminated."

There will be a mandatory Feb. 2 coaches meeting to further discuss her concerns about CPS sports programs, she said.

Byrd-Bennet said she has been "shocked and appalled" by the unsportsmanlike conduct shown by students, coaches and fans.

"I am gravely concerned about the culture of our athletic competitions," she said.

A scuffle between Simeon and Morgan Park players broke out in the postgame handshake line at the Jan. 16 game.

Afterwards, in Chicago State's parking lot, 17-year-old Morgan Park student Tyrone Lawson was fatally shot.

Michael McNabb, 32, and Stephen Gilbert, 29, were arrested and charged with the slaying of Lawson. Prosecutors did not say if the men had been at the game or whether the shooting was related to the incident between the players but Byrd-Bennett cited the "tragic incident" in her statement.

CPS is also reviewing whether a scheduled game between Whitney M. Young Magnet School and Simeon should take place at Chicago State on Saturday.

“The game is still on. The venue and security plan are under review,” CPS spokesman Frank Shuftan said via email.

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