For the last four years, Maine South offensive coordinator Charlie Bliss has conducted a free instructional camp that has tutored hundreds of high school football players from throughout the Chicago area.
The Illinois High School Association has ruled that Bliss most close his event because (1) it has received five complaints charging that Bliss is running illegal practices, (2) he is showing favoritism to Maine South players and (3) he has allowed more than three players from some schools to participate in the workouts, a violation of IHSA rules.
At a meeting at Maine South on Sunday night, Bliss informed 80 players about the IHSA's decision. From January until May, he hosts an invitation-only, once-a-week workout for more than 100 quarterbacks, 150 receivers and 50 linemen designed to improve their skills and to gain exposure to college coaches.
"I've been working with kids for 15 years and I never showed any favoritism," Bliss said. "Our goal is to leave no quarterback behind."
Bliss said he has invited the IHSA to observe his camp but no state officials have responded. To his knowledge, the IHSA has never investigated his camp.
But Bliss said he was ordered by Maine South athletic director Steve Adams to "shut down" the camp because he was afraid there could be sanctions against Bliss and Maine South.
Upon hearing the news, the reaction among players was disappointment.
"It was been great coming here," said Evanston quarterback George Sorensen. "Coach Bliss has shown me tremendous instruction. I never saw any favoritism at all. If feel it is ridiculous. We play against Maine South and they are willing to help us."
Mount Carmel wide receiver Jack Sherlock said "the best thing about coming here was the opportunity to catch balls from quarterbacks from all over the state. Now I won't be able to get any of that work done at all."
Bliss' camp is the only one of its kind in Illinois. Before the NCAA ruled a year ago that no college coaches could attend such events, 145 coaches from 90 colleges, including Illinois' Ron Zook and Northwestern's Pat Fitzgerald, showed up for the 2007 workout.
"In Texas and California and the southern states, colleges go to recruit and watch spring football practices. But Illinois doesn't have spring football," Bliss said. "We wanted to give the kids more exposure to college coaches. It was one-stop shopping for quarterbacks, receivers and linemen. This (decision) is unfair to the kids in Illinois."