Softball: Rowan McGuire won’t play for Benet in 2013
BY BILL HARRISON For Sun-Times Media March 18, 2013 8:32PM
Updated: April 21, 2013 6:21AM
The IHSA by-law which prohibits a transfer student’s eligibility to play sports when transferring from Public to Private was enforced on Monday when the IHSA informed the McGuire family by letter following an appeal that their daughter, Rowan McGuire, will not be eligible to play softball for Benet this spring.
The McGuires pleaded their case during a hearing with IHSA Executive Director Marty Hickman and other board members on Saturday in East Peoria.
Rowan, a junior slugger already committed to Georgia Southern, transferred from Downers Grove North where she attended her first two years of high school after failing to meet the academic requirements in order to attend Benet Academy before her freshman year. McGuire worked hard on her grades and was finally accepted into Benet this fall.
Her older sister Nora graduated from Benet in 2011. Her other sister Maeve is a senior and the current reigning Chicago Sun-Times Player of the Year.
“We knew it was a long shot when we [appealed] it — the only rule they looked at is that we didn’t move,” said Tessa McGuire, Rowan’s mom. “They have not reneged on any eligibility that didn’t involve a move [or change of guardianship]. They have denied all 19 appeals [this school year], and we are No. 19.”
The denial letter from the IHSA had two lines reading in part, “We have chosen to sustain the decision of ineligibility.”
“They are in the process of changing all of the rules, we were told,” Tessa said. “I don’t think kids should be penalized for legally transferring. My only concern is that a kid should be able to transfer once without penalty, especially when you are going to a better academic school. Am I bitter? No. Do I wish my kid could play? Yes.”
The McGuires considered doing a change of guardianship to an uncle, which would have automatically made Rowan eligible. Rowan, who isn’t getting any type of scholarship money, insisted that her parents do it the right way because she felt the other way wasn’t honest.
“That’s what everybody told us to do,” Tessa said. “My daughter definitely has more morals than me. She insisted that we didn’t do it that way. She said ‘Mom, what if somebody asks me how I was eligible — what would I say?’ She didn’t want to have to explain that.”
A player who transfers from private to public (no boundaries), private to private (within a 30-mile radius of residence), or public to public (as long as residency requirements are met), is deemed eligible. Some recent cases involved Marian Catholic basketball player T.J. Parham, who played for St. Francis de Sales last season and was able to play this winter, despite it being his third school (a move was involved during the first transfer). Simeon’s Russell Woods played for Leo Catholic last season and was able to play a big role in the Wolverines’ recent state title run.
“I understand the McGuires represented themselves wonderfully but we have to live with the IHSA’s decision,” Benet coach Jerry Schilf said. “We are disappointed for the kid because she did everything right. I think the rule is inconsistent. From what I understand the IHSA is pointing toward making everybody ineligible for transferring unless change of guardianship or a move is involved.
“I wasn’t counting on Rowan playing for us this season — I was praying for it though.”
Rowan’s summer coach Bill Conroy, owner of the elite Beverly Bandits travel program, has trouble understanding how the logic of these by-laws even applies to such secondary-sport athletes.
“I understand the rules are in place for football and basketball so that a private school doesn’t recruit or give a scholarship to a stud athlete,” Conroy said. “Rowan already has her scholarship. Her entire reason for transferring was for academics. To me this is a snag in the system. There is no place for it since a sport like softball isn’t a money generating sport [for the school]. Nothing more they are serving than preventing a kid from playing a sport she loves.”