Naperville Central High School failed to fill out the proper transfer documentation for at least seven student-athletes, according to emails obtained by the Shaw Local News Network through various Freedom of Information Act requests.
In May, the IHSA sanctioned the Naperville Central football and boys basketball teams for violating several IHSA by-laws related to student-athlete transfers. The football team must forfeit three years worth of games from the 2018, 2019 and spring 2021 seasons. The boys basketball team must forfeit four games from the 2018-19 season.
But more sanctions appear to be on the way. In an interview with Shaw Local, IHSA executive director Craig Anderson said additional missing paperwork has been discovered since the first forfeitures were announced, and IHSA sanctions involving additional sports are expected in the coming weeks.
According to Anderson, the investigation is looking into – in addition to transfer paperwork – concerns regarding residency issues and “some concern about recruiting and a possible violation there.”
“The investigation is ongoing or is nearing completion and there could be other outcomes related to what information we get,” Anderson said.
The initial forfeitures came two months after Naperville Community Unit School District 203 initiated its own internal investigation into the matter. The District has not released any details from that investigation. Shaw Local’s attempt to obtain a copy of District 203′s investigation results through a FOIA request was denied by the district. Shaw Local is challenging parts of that denial with the Illinois Attorney General’s office.
Naperville Central athletic director Andy Lutzenkirchen is being reassigned effective July 1 to a position listed as “TBD.” Naperville Central dean and boys volleyball coach Roger Strausberger has been named the interim athletic director for the 2021-22 school year.
A District 203 spokesperson declined to comment on Lutzenkirchen’s reassignment because the district does not comment on personnel decisions. Lutzenkirchen could not be reached for comment Monday.
Additionally, Naperville Central football coach Mike Stine retired at the end of the spring 2021 season after 37 years with the program and 15 as head coach, including a state championship in 2013. Reached by phone Monday, Stine declined to comment at this time.
Emails written by various Naperville Central officials indicate there were at least seven student-athletes who didn’t have the proper paperwork on file this spring. The missing paperwork came to light when a principal at a rival DuPage Valley Conference school alerted the IHSA.
DuPage Valley Conference rival takes notice
In mid-March, after months of waiting through the COVID-19 pandemic and an extended offseason, high school football resumed in Illinois. In the season opener, Waubonsie Valley traveled to Naperville Central for a DuPage Valley Conference afternoon game on Saturday, March 20.
That afternoon, Naperville Central beat Waubonsie Valley, 47-0. The Redhawks did so with a student-athlete who had transferred from Waubonsie Valley to Naperville Central. Waubonsie Valley principal Jason Stipp took notice.
The following Monday, Stipp met with Waubonsie Valley’s football coach and athletic director. According to emails Stipp wrote to Bill Wiesbrook, the Naperville Central principal, and Lutzenkirchen, the athletic director, Stipp wanted to better understand why the student-athlete in question left Waubonsie Valley.
“I asked, ‘Is there anything we could or should be doing to help keep athletes such as him in our school?’” Stipp wrote. “When I asked what he stated for his reason for leaving, and was informed we did not have a concurrence [form] on file, I must admit I was even more frustrated.”
When a student-athlete transfers from one school to another, the IHSA requires the principals from both schools to fill out a form called the Principal’s Concurrence Regarding Transfer. The principal or IHSA representative of the student’s new school “must promptly complete and exchange this form” with the principal or IHSA representative of the student’s former school, according to the document. A student “is not eligible to participate” until the form has been filled out by both principals and is on file at the new school.
When Stipp found out a concurrence form for the student in question was never presented to Waubonsie Valley, he wrote that he had serious questions regarding this particular transfer.
“[I] assumed until that moment all was above board,” Stipp wrote in a March 25 email to Wiesbrook and Lutzenkirchen. “I do have reservations now, especially regarding his guardianship.”
Stipp also informed the IHSA of his concerns.
“They are aware that [redacted] played on March 20th without the appropriate documentation,” Stipp wrote in the same email exchange on March 25, five days after the football game.
Wiesbrook questioned the timing of the issue. Why wait until the season began, days after the two schools faced one another?
“The sooner [Lutzenkirchen] could have been notified that he forgot to send the concurrence document, the better,” Wiesbrook wrote in an email to Stipp. “This has never happened before, and I highly doubt it will ever happen again. We are taking full responsibility.”
It had, however, happened before. In the following weeks, Naperville Central discovered several more athletes with missing concurrence forms.
In a follow-up email with Stipp two days later on March 27, Wiesbrook acknowledged a second athlete with a missing form.
“I’m very sorry that NCHS has been perceived as encouraging or wanting student-athletes to transfer here,” Wiesbrook wrote. “I’ve always believed that these kids and parents are making these choices, and we have not been engaged in encouraging it. However, by not catching these two cases immediately, we are responsible for allowing two kids (I hope we don’t discover any more) to play who should not have been allowed to play.”
That number would increase. In a May 25 email with District 203 Assistant Superintendent of Secondary Education Stephanie Posey, Lutzenkirchen wrote that he had found at least six additional transfer athletes without concurrence forms on file since discovering the first one. The athletic department scrambled to complete concurrence forms for those athletes.
According to documents obtained by Shaw Local, Naperville Central completed eight concurrence forms in the month of April.
Wiesbrook, the Naperville Central principal, did not respond to requests for comment on Monday.
Stipp, the Waubonsie Valley principal, declined to comment on Naperville Central or his contacting the IHSA. He did, however, say that he felt school administrators and coaches should encourage athletes to compete for their local schools.
“Some kids move,” Stipp said. “Some kids’ family situations change and you pack up and move. That happens, especially with the pandemic. ... The reason why I feel so compelled to this, we’re really starting to rip at the fabric of what high schools are, and that’s communities. This isn’t college. This isn’t the pros. This is high school.”
The IHSA responds, calls for forfeitures
When the first missing concurrence form was brought to the IHSA’s attention in late March, Lutzenkirchen attempted to get the athlete in question eligible as quickly as possible. On March 26, a day after the IHSA was notified, Lutzenkirchen emailed Anderson, the IHSA executive director, requesting an eligibility ruling.
“I understand that my responsibility is to ensure the form is done in a timely manner,” Lutzenkirchen wrote. “With the school year beginning in remote learning and football being put on pause I did lose sight of getting the form completed.”
Anderson responded asking for additional information. Anderson noted in his email that “short term guardianship does not meet the requirements of IHSA By-law 3.030 for Residence eligibility.”
In his response, Lutzenkirchen reiterated that he didn’t complete the concurrence form and wrote that “I also misinterpreted the guardianship by-law.”
On April 5, Lutzenkirchen formally sent Waubonsie Valley a letter recognizing that Naperville Central must forfeit the March 20 football game. But that wasn’t the end of the matter. District 203 opened its internal investigation in mid-April. On April 23, Anderson notified Lutzenkirchen that he would need more documents regarding three students in question.
“One student did not have a Principals Concurrence Regarding Transfer form and all 3 students were missing the Transfer Eligibility form,” Anderson wrote in an email.
The Transfer Eligibility form is a separate form that must be completed when seeking an eligibility ruling from the IHSA.
When schools hire a new athletic director or principal, he or she must participate in the IHSA’s new administrator’s workshop, during which transfer and residency by-laws are discussed, among other compliance procedures. Additionally, the IHSA sends out a packet to all schools each year outlining key information for ADs and principals. Anderson said the IHSA also sends two handbooks to every school each year, one for the AD and one for the principal, which outline the by-laws.
The concurrence form “isn’t a new requirement,” Anderson said, and has been used for several decades. He said it’s not uncommon for principals at other schools to point out when a concurrence form hasn’t been received. The IHSA can’t police concurrence forms for more than 800 member schools. Only if the concurrence form indicates certain red flags is a school required to file additional paperwork for an IHSA eligibility ruling.
Asked whether he thought Naperville Central’s missing concurrence forms were intentional, Anderson said he was awaiting a final report from District 203.
“That’s a good question and I’m still waiting on a final outcome of the entire investigation,” Anderson said. “As I spoke with district administration, they were trying to reach a conclusion. In my communications with the district, I think, in a general sense, they think it likely was just a misunderstanding of some responsibilities. And I share that because in addition to football and the one football [player] who overlapped a little bit with basketball, the same thing has been discovered about students in some other sports.”
Anderson said additional forfeitures could come in July.
The football team likely won’t forfeit any games prior to the 2018 season. Schools are required to keep concurrence forms on file only until a student graduates. So Naperville Central isn’t required to keep concurrence forms on file from years prior to the 2018 season. Even if forms in previous years were missing, it would be difficult to prove now.
“For those reasons, it would be difficult for us to determine whether they did or didn’t have them completed,” Anderson said. “I don’t think we’ll go back any farther [prior to the 2018 season] than what we’ve done.”