High School Team Penalized For Jersey, Seriously?

Nathan AtkinsContributor IMarch 24, 2009

There was recently a story about North Lawndale College Prep in a Yahoo/Rivals.com post.

The team was given a technical foul at the start of their semi-final game for the Class 3A State Championships.

NLCP was punished for the black ring around the armpit of their jersey. The uniform violates the rules of the National Federation of State High School Association (NFSHSA).

The opposing team, Champaign Centennial went to the free throw line, hit one of two free throws, and had a 1-0 lead before the opening tip-off.

North Lawndale lost 65-66.

The Illinois High School Association (IHSA) has not backed down from their choice to penalize the team. Kurt Gibson, a representative for the IHSA, said that he "warned the team the day before." Seriously Mr. Gibson?

After you warned this team the day before, did you expect them to go out and buy new jerseys? There was nothing they could do.

To criticize the team for not taking advantage of your 24-hour notice is asinine. There is no way they could have changed their uniform. What could they have played in? Park district t-shirts with their name and number on the back?

Mr. Gibson told the Chicago Tribune: "They had ample warning, if they had put together white uniforms of differing styles, that's fine-so long as they adhered to the uniform rule."

Of course, as with most uniforms, the home and away are the same exact design, just with different color schemes. No matter what jersey North Lawndale chose, home or away they were going to be penalized. 

Yet, strangely, NLCP wasn't penalized last year for jerseys which had a yellow ring under the armpit.

Illinois High School basketball is slightly different than most states. There are two tournaments; the Chicago Public School Tournament, which only hosts the schools within the city of Chicago, and the IHSA State Tournament which includes all teams.

Lewis Thorpe, the coach of NLCP said that Gibson didn't mention that the jerseys were illegal when his team reached the quarterfinals of the CPS Tournament.

Yahoo/Rivals.com contacted a member of the NFSHSA, Mary Struckhoff. Struckhoff is an interpreter for the basketball rules and a rule editor. She says that the rules are in place for quick recognition and to allow the referees to make out the number on the jersey.

Above is a picture of the NLCP jersey. Clearly the number can be seen and the jersey is not, in any way, distracting.

Rules are rules though, and North Lawndale was punished accordingly. I have three problems with this.

Firstly, why did Gibson wait until the state tournament to say anything to North Lawndale's coach, and why did he only give them 24-hours notice?

Secondly, if the National Federation of State High School Association has these strict rules and guidelines, then wouldn't manufacturers of jerseys and high school equipment follow the rules set by the NFSHSA?

Struckhoff says that the NFSHSA began to enforce the rules over the last two years, because coaches would pressure manufacturers to create illegal jerseys.


Are we to believe that some high school coach has enough influence over a company that he can control what type of jersey a company makes?

Also, if the policy was being enforced over the last two years, then why was Coach Thorpe able to get a jersey this year and last year that still broke the rules?

Someone has messed up; either the regulations are not as strict as Struckhoff would like people to believe, or Coach Thorpe beat the system twice. The second seems much less likely than the first.

Lastly, why wait until the semifinals to punish a team? If they broke the rules, shouldn't they have been punished from the beginning of the tournament?

It doesn't seem logical that a company would make jerseys for a high school team, yet ignore the National Federation for High School sports. Something doesn't seem right.

Unfortunately for Coach Thorpe, there was nothing he could do. Even last year's jerseys were in violation of the NFSHSA's policies. One way or another his team would be punished.

For some reason it came in the semifinals and cost his team the opportunity to advance to the championship game.

Resiliently, NLCP rebounded in the third place game and won 91-77. They once again started the game down 1-0.

Since when do we care more about the uniform, and less about the players and the game?


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