North Lawndale College Prep has been through a lot this season. First off, the school is pretty rough - I think the Blues Brothers went there - and after player Jermaine Winfield was shot in a post-game altercation earlier this season, the Chicago Public League banned visiting fans from attending games. And their run at the state Class 3A championships fell apart when they lost by one point in the semifinals after going down 1-0 before tip-off when they were penalized for having “illegal uniforms.”
But before you feel too much pity for them, keep in mind this little nugget from the CHICAGO TRIBUNE: One of the school’s teachers reported to administrators that a star player on the team had cheated on a make-up exam. His reward? Being told to stay away from the state playoff game for his own safety, while the player accused of cheating got to play anyway.
Chris Wolf is a math teacher, huge basketball fan and the unofficial “academic advisor” to the team - he’s devoted hours of time to working with players to improve their grades and make sure they stay academically eligible. So he says he had a crisis of conscience when he found evidence that Jonathan Mills, a 6′5″ star on the team and D-I prospect, had cheated on a make-up test. Even his dad told him to look the other way.
But that didn’t sit right with Wolf, so he told administrators about his concerns, who reviewed the evidence. Amazingly, unlike so many other schools who would have tried to duct tape Wolf’s mouth shut to keep their star player on the court, the school immediately suspended Mills for the state playoffs.
So why was he playing in the state semifinals where his team was bounced because of an illegal uniform? Because Mills’ mom hired a lawyer who convinced a judge to issue a restraining order against the suspension, because banning Mills from the playoffs would cause “irreparable harm” to Jonathan.
The moral of the story: Even when a school and a teacher do the right thing and try to value academics and high moral standards over athletic achievement, things still get screwed up. At this point, should we even have high school sports, or just make everything a club sport without regard for academic, recruiting or anything other than winning?