NeveHarms In January of 1994, Steve Kouri led a small group of civic minded citizens in seeking to persuade the IHSA to move its Boys State Basketball Finals to Peoria after it had been held in Champaign for 77 years. Few thought the goal possible, but Steve kept the focus sharp in months of quiet discussion with IHSA officials.
On May 5, 1995, the lHSA shocked folks across the state when Peoria won out over competing bids by Champaign and Bloomington.
In the years that followed, competition became fierce, but through the work of Kouri and his group of dedicated people, Peoria succeeded in putting on a tournament the likes of which became the model for states across this nation. The promise of a "March Madness Experience" was not only kept, but was improved upon year after year. No high school association has ever hosted such an event.
Kouri co-chaired the host committee for the next ten years and his group now coordinates more than 2,000 volunteers and annually raises more than $200,000 in corporate support.
Even after stepping aside and handing the reins to Cat VP Don Weston, Judge Kouri actively participates as a volunteer during the tourney, doing whatever is necessary to insure success. 2009 marks the 14th IHSA Boys Basketball Finals to be held at Peoria's Civic Center.
In addition, Steve has served on the Peoria City Council and his other activities include Bradley Chiefs Club, Easter Seals, Holy Family Parish Council, Visiting Nurses Association, Peoria Notre Dame and 0SF Community Advisory Board.
In January of 1994, Steve Kouri led a small group of civic minded citizens in seeking to persuade the IHSA to move its Boys State Basketball Finals to Peoria after it had been held in Champaign for 77 years. Few thought the goal possible, but Steve kept the focus sharp in months of quiet discussion with IHSA officials.
Larry Leitner was among the state's elite officials for more than 40 years, officiating high school, college and professional sporting events from 1960 through 2003 and he remains involved in sports by serving on the board of directors for the Pekin Insurance Holiday Tournament, as well as evaluating current officials and moderating IHSA rules clinics.
Among his officiating highlights, Leitner worked more IHSA basketball and football tournament games than any official in the state's history, earning 27 consecutive boys basketball regional assignments. He also worked the IHSA boys basketball state finals in 1973, 1974 and 1976, including the 1976 championship game, and three IHSA football finals, including the first-ever 2A state championship game in 1974. A charter member of the Gateway Conference officiating crew in 1988, Leitner was part of the crew that officiated the 1990 and 1993 NCAA Division I-AA quarterfinals and he served as an associate official for the Big Ten Conference from 1984-88.
Leitner also was called upon to officiate two IESA state championship games, the 1990 National Catholic Basketball finals, three Shriner All-Star football games and the 1980 IBCA All-Star Classic, while also working for two seasons in the Midwest Professional Football League.
Leitner is a member of the Illinois Basketball Coaches Association, Peoria Officials and Bloomington/Normal Officials Halls of Fame.