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Whitney Young Girls Hoops Coach Accuses IHSA of Stacking Deck Against Team

By Justin Breen | March 3, 2015 12:16pm | Updated on March 3, 2015 6:29pm
 Whitney Young girls basketball coach Corry Irvin is surrounded by her players during a team huddle.
Whitney Young girls basketball coach Corry Irvin is surrounded by her players during a team huddle.
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Greg McKee

CHICAGO — Whitney Young girls basketball coach Corry Irvin is accusing the Illinois High School Association of deliberately making her team's path to the state finals difficult.

Irvin on Saturday, following Thursday's 37-36 loss to Trinity in the Class 4A sectional finals, posted a lengthy Facebook message in part asking why the IHSA "would purposely, well my fault — IRONICALLY, continually make decisions that looked like they were tired of us getting downstate so they kept making it hard."

Irvin, whose team had reached the state's final four every year since 2008 until Thursday's defeat, says the IHSA purposely puts them in difficult sectionals with tougher competition.

Justin Breen spoke with the coach and the IHSA:

In an interview with DNAinfo Chicago on Monday, Irvin added, "We just get treated [like] they’re tired of us coming down."

"Situations like this you can never prove anything, but it always appears the same way," said Irvin, whose Dolphins won the Class 4A state title last year.

IHSA executive director Marty Hickman said Irvin's claims aren't true.

"We don't have a preference to who comes to our state finals," Hickman said Tuesday. "We have absolutely no preference who comes and absolutely no control over that. If there's some suggestion that we've been trying to prevent Whitney Young from getting [Downstate], we've been horrible at that. I don't know if we can have a worse record, if that's our motivation. That's crazy.

"I think what happens sometimes is the Yankees don't win. The Patriots don't win the Super Bowl every year," Hickman added. "In a competitive environment like this, schools lose. It shouldn't be shocking to anybody that every once in a while Whitney Young might not make it to the state finals."

Irvin said she's been a consistent critic of the IHSA's practice of choosing which teams play in the sectional after each season starts instead of before play begins. Irvin said she sends a letter to the IHSA following each season, requesting the organization pick which teams go in which sectional before the season starts.

"They decide the brackets of where teams are going to go, after we already started the season, which gives them an opportunity to see how teams are doing," Irvin said in the interview. "Sometimes when you’re in an organization that’s supposed to be making fair judgments, things should be a little more set in stone."

Hickman said the girls basketball season usually begins in mid-November and sectional assignments are made in early December. He added that's been the policy for "more than a decade."

"I think it's a non-issue, to be honest with you," Hickman said. "It's worked well in the past for Whitney Young. In the years they've advanced to our state final, the timing has been the same, so I don't know why that would be an issue."

Irvin said the IHSA tried to place more difficult teams, including Trinity, in Whitney Young's sectional because they want different teams to get Downstate. She said money plays a factor.

"Sometimes I think some of their decisions are based on trying to get teams in all sports ... that bring the most fans that give them the opportunity to give them the most money," Irvin said Monday.

The IHSA's postseason assigning process, specifically "Policy 18," says strengths and weaknesses of the schools in a geographic area, nor anticipated or potential revenue, factor into the decision. Instead, the rules aim to balance the number of teams, with geography part of the process.

Irvin, who has been Whitney Young's coach since 2001, had requested the IHSA name her school a sectional host site every season of her tenure. For the first time, that request was granted this season.

"They’re very good at stuff like that, at like being, in order to get her quiet, we’ll just give her a sectional," Irvin said Monday.

The IHSA's postseason assigning process said choosing a host is determined by "host factors," which include history, facility and ability to host.

"We try to rotate sectional [hosts]," Hickman said. "It seems like an odd thing to be concerned about. Whitney Young has a great facility, but there are 20-some teams in the sectional and many of them are worthy of hosting a sectional. This year it rotated [Whitney Young's] way."

Thursday's loss snapped the Dolphins' state-record 137-game winning streak at home. Their last home defeat had taken place Jan. 18, 2004.

Whitney Young led 36-30 before allowing Trinity to score the last seven points. In her Facebook post, Irvin said officiating played a part in the loss.

"We kept the game close and when we had an opportunity to finish it, we let the referees get involved because we didn’t play smart," Irvin said in her post. "I won’t say the refs cheated us because I know we didn’t play our best game, but I will say that we let them into the game and once we did that, they took over and we let them."

Irvin on Monday did not comment further on the officiating in Thursday's game.

Irvin's Facebook post also noted her squad endured racial taunts from other teams' fans during the season.

"This year we were called 'ghetto.' We were called 'cheaters.' We were called various other things. Which I know comes with the territory but by no means makes it right," Irvin posted.

"We had to play our best all the time because people want us to fail," Irvin, whose team finished the season 28-2, said Monday. "Sometimes people perfectly stack the odds against you, and you have to figure out how to get through it."

Even if the Dolphins had won Thursday, she said her gripes against the IHSA remain the same.

"I would still be having this conversation, I would just be having it next week," Irvin said.

Said Hickman: "We see it differently, and that's OK. Corry certainly has her opinion, and I am respectful of that."

Trinity on Monday lost 72-68 to Homewood-Flossmoor in a supersectional. The state semifinals take place Friday at Redbird Arena in Normal.

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