Screwup on Western

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The Screwup on Western refers to a scandal that took place at the March 15, 2003 IHSA Sectional Tournament hosted by St. Rita on Western Avenue on Chicago's South Side.

The four teams competing on that day were Richards High School of Oak Lawn, Marist High School of Chicago, Fenwick High School of Oak Park, and Lyons Township High School of LaGrange, the respective champions of the four Regionals in the St. Rita Sectional.

While not the strongest Sectional in the state, Fenwick was considered among the stronger schools in the state that season, putting up a 39-19 record in winning a Regional title. Fenwick had played in many tournaments against state ranked opponents, and while accruing 19 losses, had also beaten some good teams. Lyons had a 25-4 record, which was considered to be somewhat inflated by virtue of the team playing most of its matches in the relatively weak, uninvolved West Suburban Conference, attending few tournaments and playing few good teams.

Prior to the 2002-03 season, the champions and runners-ups of the four Regionals in each Sectional all advanced to the Sectional, where the eight teams were randomly placed into a bracket, similar to the way IHSA State is still played, though Regional Champions were ensured a first round matchup against a Regional Runner-up, and played a three round single-elimination tournament to determine the Sectional Champion that would advance to State. Starting in the 2002-03 season, only Regional Champions moved on to Sectionals, where the four winners played a three match round-robin to determine a champion.

While this was in print and on the website, and communicated to numerous coaches through IHSSBCA briefings, for some reason the Sectional hosts at St. Rita decided to ignore the policy.

By the end of the round-robin, Fenwick emerged victorious, having defeated Lyons, Marist, and Richards in succession to claim the Sectional Title, and advance to the State Championship Tournament for the second time in three years.

However, when Fenwick wanted to claim its championship plaque, the hosts announced a fourth round would take place between 3-0 Fenwick and 2-1 Lyons as soon as the individual dispatched to find an old question set returned. Fenwick protested this based on its irregularity, that a fourth round had never been announced, that no rule existed to support the fourth round being played, and that the state had never sent four rounds of questions. Nonetheless, the hosts insisted, and the match was played. Lyons narrowly won, and was awarded the Sectional Title.

The next week, Lyons claimed 4th place in the State Tournament.

Fenwick did not protest to the IHSA on the grounds that the IHSA has a rule clearly stating that they will not review the decisions of Regional and Sectional moderators or tournament directors. Since this time, the IHSA has clarified that events like this are reviewable.

At no time did Lyons object to or protest the actions taken by the host, and their fourth place finish remains recognized by the IHSA. While the St. Rita hosts were relatively uninvolved in quiz bowl, and may have been ignorant of procedures, the Lyons coach at the time was a veteran coach, and should have been well aware of the situation.

Fenwick returned the next year and won what should have been their third Sectional in four years and second in a row, and placed fourth in State for the second time.

St. Rita would not host another IHSA event until a Regional in 2008.