The school board at Centralia High School wants Althoff Catholic High School kicked out of the South Seven athletic conference, citing unsportsmanlike conduct and “safety concerns.”
The Centralia board passed a resolution Thursday night that gives Centralia Superintendent Chuck Lane permission to ask South Seven Conference members to remove Althoff, according to a report by Salem radio station WJBD.
The resolution says Althoff officials have failed to effectively address Centralia’s concerns about unsportsmanlike conduct, verbally and physically abusive and unprofessional judgment that have caused Centralia students harm and have caused them to fear for their safety.
Althoff Principal David Harris, when contacted Saturday, said Althoff had not yet been notified of the action by conference officials or by Centralia administrators. Harris currently serves as vice president of the athletic conference. He said South Seven Conference leaders also have not yet been formally notified of Centralia’s action.
“Out of respect for members of the South Seven conference, I cannot speak to something that has not officially been told to anyone in the conference,” Harris said. He said he assumes the matter will be brought to the attention of conference leaders at their November meeting, and that he might be able to comment at that time.
Centralia’s Lane told WJBD: “This isn’t anything new we haven’t already discussed with Althoff and with the other conference schools. This is just the board giving me the official authority to ask for their removal from the conference. It mainly has to do with player safety. We have had some issues the last three years, in our football games specifically, with some safety concerns. We asked that they be addressed. We had another incident this year with it, so we are at the point now we think we need to go in a different direction.”
He added, “It doesn’t mean they are out of the conference, it just means we are going to ask they be removed from the conference.”
Tensions between Althoff and Centralia came to a head last year after an Althoff player put a late hit on a Centralia kicker during a football game. The Althoff player was penalized, but not ejected by referees. However, Althoff’s coach, on his own, removed the player from the game. The kicker’s parents later told KMOV in St. Louis that they found the hit to be “disturbing,” and said they feared that future Althoff opponents could suffer serious injuries.
At the time, Althoff issued the following statement: “The game last Friday night was a very heated rivalry between the two teams. The play in question was flagged and the penalty enforced. The referees, upon consulting, did not feel the play constituted an ejection of the player. Our coach, on his own accord, immediately removed our player from the field and did not allow him to return to the field of action for the rest of the game.”
The statement added: “We at Althoff Catholic were glad to see that the Centralia player was able to return to the game for the ensuing kickoff. The administration and Athletic Department is taking the matter under review.”
The Althoff Crusaders went into the football playoffs this year with an 8-1 record, facing Carterville on Saturday. The Crusaders’ only regular-season loss this year was a 21-14 loss to Centralia’s Orphans on Sept. 22 — the first game played at Althoff’s new George Martz Field in Belleville.
Centralia’s quarterback, JaVon Williams, said after the game that the Orphans’ loss last year to Althoff served as motivation.
“We definitely remembered it,” he said.
The South Seven Conference currently has six member schools: Althoff, Centralia, Cahokia, Marion, Carbondale and Mt. Vernon. Granite City has petitioned to join the conference.