The Horizon League Board of Directors has voted to allow University of Illinois Chicago (UIC) student-athletes back into their 2022 conference championship competitions.
Last week the league announced that UIC’s student-athletes were prohibited from competing in their respective Horizon League Championship competitions after the school accepted an invitation to join the Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) in 2022-23.
UIC had initially requested that the league give them relief on Bylaw 18.104.22.168, which denies student-athletes championship eligibility unless the school gives the conference 13 months’ notice that they’re leaving.
The Horizon League announced the decision not to grant that relief last week, but changed course on Tuesday as the Board of Directors voted to restore UIC’s student-athletes eligibility for all league championships this season.
“I credit our League’s Board of Directors for prioritizing UIC’s student-athletes despite UIC leaders’ continued actions regarding their move to another conference,” said Horizon League Commissioner Julie Roe Lach.
“The response from UIC leaders has been disappointing, disingenuous, and inconsistent with our League values. At the end of the day, our League’s Board of Directors realized that UIC leaders were not going to take any action to restore eligibility for their student-athletes – including by making a simple request to the Missouri Valley Conference to enter in 2023. So our Board chose to exercise their authority to grant the student-athletes an exception to the agreed-upon bylaw.”
The Horizon League Swimming & Diving Championships will run this week, Feb. 16-19, in Indianapolis.
Multiple on-deck sources indicated to SwimSwam that no one knew UIC would be competing at the meet until Tuesday afternoon.
The Horizon League made a point in its press release to note that the Bylaw that rendered UIC’s student-athletes ineligible for league championships was one UIC sponsored and voted to approve back in 2013.
The league also said the initial ruling not to grant relief was due to the fact that UIC knew the consequences of its decision and went ahead with it anyway.
“On February 8, after consulting with its Athletics Directors, Senior Women Administrators and Faculty Athletics Representatives, the League’s Board of Directors denied UIC’s request for relief noting that when UIC made the decision to violate League bylaws, UIC leaders knew that they were compromising the postseason eligibility for their student-athletes,” the league said in its release. “The Board of Directors noted that UIC provided no compelling or extraordinary circumstance for relief.
“Following the initial decision, the Horizon League proposed multiple alternatives to UIC leaders. At the time, UIC leaders engaged in an inflammatory and misleading media campaign that attacked the League, including posting contact information of the League’s university presidents and chancellors on official UIC websites. UIC rejected any alternative and did nothing to help the student-athletes they claimed to care about.
“In these circumstances, the Board of Directors met again to consider UIC’s request for a special exemption. Recognizing UIC leaders were not going to engage in a constructive pathway to remedy the situation, the Board decided to provide relief. “This decision by our Board of Directors is the culmination of a three-week effort to find a pathway for all student-athletes to participate in upcoming League championships,” noted Board Chair Ashish Vaidya, President of Northern Kentucky University. “I appreciate the willingness of our Board members to work through this difficult situation on behalf of UIC student-athletes.”