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The State Journal-Register (Springfield, IL)
This year's edition of a boys high school basketball tournament carrying the name of Adam Lopez was thrown into limbo Friday when Lincoln Land Community College announced it was rescinding its agreement to host the event amid ongoing questions surrounding Lopez.
"Due to uncertainties surrounding pending investigations of Adam Lopez, Lincoln Land Community College will rescind its tournament hosting agreement with Mr. Lopez and Snap Fitness effective immediately," a statement from the college said. "College administrators will work with Lanphier High School to develop alternate tournament arrangements in support of the eight teams who have been invited to participate."
Jennifer Gill, District 186's superintendent, said Friday the district was working with Lincoln Land to determine if there was a way to still hold the tournament. It would cost about $20,000 to fulfill commitments already made to the teams that had signed up to play, she said.
"We'd rather have the tournament if we're going to have to pay (the teams)," she said.
Gill said the district would seek donors.
"It's not what taxpayer dollars would go to," she said.
LLCC's announcement comes the same week Country Financial confirmed it terminated Lopez and launched an investigation after receiving complaints from Lopez's customers and subsequently finding "irregularities" upon a review of accounts overseen by Lopez. Springfield police also said this week they are investigating a report filed about Lopez but did not elaborate on the allegations in the report.
In a statement issued through his lawyer earlier this week, Lopez said he disagrees with Country Financial's basis for firing him and is exploring his legal options.
"I am issuing this statement now because of the unnecessary and false rumors that have circulated through the community," he wrote. "My family and I are determining our next steps as I explore my options and consider new opportunities for employment."
The fourth edition of the Adam Lopez Thanksgiving Tournament was to take place in November at LLCC's Cass Gymnasium. It was the first year the event was to be held at Lincoln Land. The previous three years were at Lanphier High School, and the event was sponsored each year by Lopez's Country Financial insurance office.
The change in venue came earlier this year amid questions raised by local businessman Frank Vala, who went to a Springfield School Board meeting and questioned Lopez - who is vice president of the school board - about tournament sponsorship fees, insurance and custodial costs, as well as facility rental when the event was held at Lanphier.
When the five-year agreement with LLCC was announced in July, Lopez said a look into Vala's questions revealed Lopez didn't do anything wrong. But it did lead the school board to change some policies.
"To me, it was easier to move the tournament to a new venue because it had become a pain and we knew this was never going to end," Lopez said in July.
As part of the change announced in July, the main tournament sponsor switched from Lopez's Country Financial office to Snap Fitness 24-7. Lopez's wife, Christine, owns local Snap Fitness locations.
Tony DelGiorno, Lopez's attorney, said Friday LLCC's decision to rescind the hosting agreement "may be a breach of contract."
"As far as I know, Snap is able to move forward with their portion of this contract," he said.
DelGiorno said the Lopezes are willing to remove any mention of Adam Lopez from the contract, given the investigation.
"We understand Lincoln Land's hesitancy," he said.
The 2018 field for the tournament is set. Besides Lanphier, the tournament will host Chicago Brooks, Chicago Curie, Chicago Orr, North Chicago, East St. Louis, Peoria Manual and St. Louis Cardinal Ritter.
Gill said that at this point in the year, the teams would be unlikely to be able to enter other tournaments or adjust their schedules.
"The teams the tournament attracted are great competition for each other," she said. "We hope (the tournament) doesn't go away."
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