Being there just isn’t that toughMorgan Park's head coach Thomas Johnson looks intense as he watches his girls during the first half of a game against Thornton Fractional North on Tuesday, Feb. 22, 2011, in Park Forest, Ill. | John Smierciak~for Sun-Times Media
Updated: January 12, 2012 7:03PM
March Madness still is a ways off, but at Morgan Park the state playoffs already have begun.
The girls and boys basketball teams — actually, all of the sports teams — staved off elimination Thursday when girls hoops coach Thomas Johnson trekked through the snow and drove down to Bloomington to attend an IHSA Principals Rules last-chance meeting.
He was joined by representatives from 21 other schools, all of which temporarily had been suspended from the state series after failing to attend, for the second year in a row, one of the regularly scheduled meetings held at various locations in November.
Ten other schools under suspension failed to send a representative Thursday. Because of the inclement weather conditions, IHSA executive director Marty Hickman announced that a last last-chance meeting will be held Jan. 19.
Any of those 10 schools failing to send a representative to the Jan. 19 meeting would be suspended from state tournament activities until January 2013.
Morgan Park and the other schools that were represented at Thursday’s meeting are off the hook, at least unless some of them fail to attend next fall’s meetings.
And you know some of them will fail. Some always do. Not Morgan Park, though. Johnson swears to it.
“We’ll be there,” Johnson said amid the snowflakes as he rode up I-55 on Thursday to return home. “This is not the time of year you want to be doing this.”
No, you don’t. And you won’t have to, if you show up when you’re supposed to in early November.
Besides, I can’t even imagine him trying to explain to his kids, some of whom have Division I potential, that they can’t dream about winning a state title because nobody at the school could make it to a meeting.
Not that I’m blaming T.J. in particular for this non-compliance. Quite the contrary, he’s a go-getter when it comes to finding good competition for his girls basketball teams. His team has traveled to Ohio and Wisconsin already this season.
This IHSA affair actually is billed as a “principals” meeting, during which they discuss topics such as classification policy, the IHSA’s concussion education program and drug testing, along with proposals that have surfaced during the previous year.
If the principal can’t make it, he or she can designate someone else to attend. And it’s not like the IHSA makes it particularly painful to attend. The meetings are held at various locations all over the state.
One was held at Mother McAuley just a few days before Morgan Park went there to play the Mighty Macs in basketball Nov. 18.
Nope, can’t say they didn’t have directions.
“We dropped the ball,” Johnson said. “I mean, it’s hard because they did have those meetings during the day when we’re scheduled for things at school, but ... we dropped the ball.”
Morgan Park dropped the ball last year, and the year before that, too. That’s why Johnson had to drive to Bloomington in January 2011 to avoid the school being suspended from the state playoffs.
This year he had plenty of company. The Chicago Public League alone had 22 schools that were on the suspended list.
It’s just all so ridiculous.
The IHSA holds these meetings to reach out to its member schools and have dialogue. It’s probably the best opportunity schools have of literally voicing their concerns about ... whatever. And the best part is, the IHSA comes to them. They don’t even have to go to Bloomington. There really is no excuse for not attending.
Quit being lazy.