Spring sports are well under way for the University of Illinois at Chicago, but those athletes will not be able to compete for a conference title or an NCAA tournament bid after the Horizon League upheld a bylawn that prevented the Flames from competing in the postseason.
The Horizon League made the announcement following the Flames' decision to join the Missouri Valley Conference.
“None of this has to happen. This is a conscious decision on the Horizon League to inflict pain against our student athletes and it does feel like retribution,” Michael Lipitz Director of Athletics UIC said.
The Director of Athletics is not alone. Coaches and players share the sentiment against this ban.
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Under the ruling from the Horizon League, all spring sports will conclude at the end of the regular season, meaning seniors will see their seasons cut short.
“It’s just heart breaking. We work so hard all year and we always talked about this being our ultimate goal and I’ve been here for a few years and now that’s been my ultimate goal personally my whole time here and to have that taken away it’s just terrible,” Jamie Ahale said.
The Horizon League decision was made after UIC requested athletes be allowed to partake in postseason play after announcing it would be withdrawing from the conference.
The board of directors voted against it in a statement obtained by NBC-5 News, with the commissioner of the Horizon League saying in a statement:
"After thoughtful discussion, the Board members voted not to grant a waiver of the League’s Bylaws concerning eligibility for League championships. Those provisions have been in place for a period of years before this notice and the Board did not receive any ground for a waiver of the Bylaw that was not contemplated when the Bylaw was approved by its full membership, including UIC."
The statement went on to add:
"The Board was sympathetic to the effects of a league transition on student-athletes but recognized that ensuring UIC’s student-athlete eligibility for Horizon League championships was within UIC’s discretion and control, and could have been ensured through a timely notice," Julie Roe Lach said.
While some spring sports have started others are getting under way, athletes at the school say they will continue to compete to win, even without a conference title at stake.
“Shocked, I was shocked we’re supposed to play for a conference championship," Cory Moore, a senior baseball player, said.