Only two days after winning the state championship in 8A division high school football, allegations of impropriety hit the Maine South football program Monday.
The Illinois High School Association (IHSA) warned of the possibility of stripping the school of its Class 8A football crown as a result, then later clarified that it may impose sanctions rather than take away the title.
"There are a variety of sanctions that could be imposed in this situation, including suspensions or the loss of postseason hosting opportunities, but based on what we know at this juncture, it is unlikely that any of those sanctions would include Maine South forfeiting its state championship," said IHSA Executive Director Marty Hickman.
The IHSA said the wrongdoing involved the "creation and distribution of counterfeit sideline passes, the presence of alumni on the sidelines and incidents at the state finals with security/local police over the removal of some of the individuals in possession of the fake passes."
On Dec. 13, the IHSA will hold a meeting at which Maine South will be given the opportunity:
-- To defend itself in regards to the allegations that occurred during the title game against Mount Carmel in Champaign.
-- To answer allegations that there were "inappropriate'' comments made by coaches and fans at the state championship game as well as at the semifinal game against Loyola Academy.
"It is unfortunate to have what should be a time of celebration marred by the unethical actions of individuals associated with the school's football program," Hickman said in a news release.
"As we told members of the Maine South administration on a conference call this morning, we take these abuses very seriously. Not only do these actions present significant safety issues, but some could potentially provide a competitive advantage, which may warrant sanctions. We have asked them to conduct an internal investigation prior to the December board meeting."
In an interview with the Chicago Tribune, Hickman said additional personnel on the sideline could have given the Hawks a competitive advantage. He also said unauthorized former players from recent years were on the sideline in violation of the rules.
There was controversy surrounding the Hawks' win at Loyola Academy the week before the championship game when Maine South fans stormed the field in the final seconds of the team's 29-22 win, disturbing the end of the game.
They had to be removed from the field before the game could be concluded officially.
Hickman also told the Tribune there were "inappropriate comments by both the head coach and assistant coach at the awards stand after the title game."
Maine Township High School District 207 issued a statement over the controversy.
"Maine South High School and Maine Township High School District 207 will comply with the Illinois High School Association (IHSA) request to conduct an internal investigation regarding the issues outlined by the IHSA in its communications on Monday, Nov. 29,'' the release said.
"Maine South and District 207 take seriously the concerns presented by the IHSA and will conduct a thorough investigation. Maine South will present its findings, as requested, in advance of the Dec. 13 board meeting of the IHSA."
Under coach Dave Inserra, the Hawks have accomplished the highly difficult achievement of winning three consecutive state titles.