Three Sudanese high school basketball players for Mooseheart Child City and School near Batavia that were previously declared ineligible will be allowed to play in games Tuesday and Wednesday until a hearing next week before the Illinois High School Association.
Kane County Judge David Akemann Tuesday afternoon granted a temporary restraining order allowing the three players, who came to the school from war-torn Sudan last year, to play until a hearing at the IHSA headquarters in Bloomington.
"(Akemann's) ruling allows our students to continue competing until we have the opportunity to present our full case before the IHSA board at our hearing on Monday," said Scott Hart, executive director for Mooseheart, a school for at-risk children. "Mooseheart has never brought any children to campus for athletic purposes. Mooseheart remains as strongly committed as ever to our mission of nurturing, raising and educating children in need."
The IHSA recently declared Mangisto Deng, Makur Puou, Akim Nyang and Wal Khat ineligible to play in high school sports. The first three are on the basketball team; Khat is a cross country runner.
The IHSA argues that Mooseheart officials "unduly influenced" the teens to come to the school and wants the basketball team to forfeit games and Khat to return his cross country medals.
IHSA attorney David Bressler could not immediately be reached for comment.
Mooseheart attorneys argue the teens sat out a full year, per IHSA regulations for transfer students, and were declared eligible by the IHSA. They also question the timing, arguing that Khat ran an entire season of cross country, and the trio have already played several basketball games, losing half of them, according to court records.
Attorneys also argue in court papers that the IHSA's ineligibility announcement last week was the result of "frightening speculation and paranoid innuendo" and pressure from Mooseheart's rival, Hinckley-Big Rock. Officials from Big Rock High School could not be reached for comment late Tuesday. Mooseheart travels to Hinckley for a game at 7:15 p.m. Wednesday.
Mooseheart attorneys filed an emergency lawsuit late Monday seeking the temporary restraining order that would allow the trio to play and also arguing that without the order, the students would be being punished without due process.
"We don't believe it's appropriate that punishment be imposed prior to a hearing being held," said Timothy McLean, one of the attorneys for the 100-year-old school. "We are prepared to demonstrate that nobody from Mooseheart recruited the students as athletes. We will be able to show that at the hearing."
Both sides are due back before Akemann Dec. 11.
"We have not had a decision by the IHSA board of directors," Akemann said in issuing his ruling. "There are some grave issues involved in this case. The first place to determine (eligibility) and air out these issues is the board of directors for the Illinois High School Association."