CHICAGO (CBS) — Chicago Public Schools decided Wednesday to allow high school football teams to resume practicing during the teachers’ strike, so the teams can meet requirements to qualify for the state playoffs if the strike ends in time for the postseason.
As CBS 2’s Chris Tye reported, a rarely-used rule allowed the teams to practice Wednesday, even as the strike keeps many coaches off the field.
The Illinois High School Association requires football teams to have three practices before they can play a game if the team hasn’t practiced in seven days, and CPS teams haven’t practiced since the strike began on Oct. 17.
NOW: Chicago Public Schools WILL allow high school football teams to practice today — a requirement to qualify for post season play. They MUST have at least one non-union coach/representative that is IHSA certified for practice to go forward. @cbschicago
— Chris Tye (@TVTye) October 30, 2019
In order to resume practices, CPS teams must have at least one non-union coach or representative who meets IHSA certifications. Practices also “must be conducted in such manner that assures the health and safety of the participants,” according to the IHSA.
Students from a team whose school is on strike are not allowed to practice with teams from schools that are not on strike.
It appeared all 19 CPS schools that are playoff eligible arranged practice Wednesday afternoon or evening so they could get all three required practices before Saturday.
It appears as though all 19 CPS football programs that are playoff eligible are arranging practices today. Some as early as 3:30 some as late as 7:30. One per day leading up to (and including) Friday is required. @cbschicago
— Chris Tye (@TVTye) October 30, 2019
At Simeon High School, 8147 S. Vincennes Ave., it was an ugly night as the weather was concerned. But the football field was a beautiful sight for a few dozen Simeon Wolverines who have gotten used to long shots paying off.
The IHSA granted Simeon’s appeal last week to qualify for playoffs, and now the Chicago Public Schools are allowing practices to occur with non-union coaches.
Practice got under way in the late afternoon, and the other CPS schools that qualify for the postseason also scrambled Wednesday to make similar scenes like this happen.
Wolverines football players realize their future in the state playoffs is not yet a done deal. But they’re happy their hopes, their scholarships, and their run at “state” are still alive.
“It’s been ups and down. Some people, you know, some of the teammates’ been down. But as a captain, the other captains – as leaders, we have to keep our heads up and just be strong for the team,” said Simeon football player Khalyl Warren.
“It’s fantastic,” added Simeon football player Ronald Haggins. “We’re ready to get back on the field and show everybody what we’re capable of.”
“I understand what they’re doing, but at the same time, they’re doing it for the kids, and might as well come back so we can play,” said Simeon football player London Harvin.
Harvin said the Wolverines were especially hungry for success this year.
“We have a big point to prove, just like last year with the situation. Now it’s like we’ve got to prove a point now,” he said. “We’re hungry – we’re real hungry.”
The strike still would have to end before the playoffs start on Saturday in order for the CPS teams to play. If the strike doesn’t end by the playoffs, all CPS teams would forfeit their games. Although the state playoffs begin Friday night, no CPS teams have games scheduled until Saturday, so it’s unclear exactly when the strike must end for them to play.
“An exact timeline for determining the forfeit deadline will be announced later this week,” IHSA director Craig Anderson said.
CBS 2’s Tye talked to coaches at Simeon Wednesday night. The coaches said the players were sharp physically, but mentally, they still have a lot of work to do to get ready for Saturday’s game.
They said practices will be stiff the next couple of nights, but they don’t want to empty the tank either.
“Mentally, we’re prepared to play. Physically, we’ve got a little work to do,” said Simeon football assistant coach Jordan Diamond. “Our guys are just hungry – that’s going to take us over the top.”
Meanwhile at Walter Payton College Prep, 1034 N. Wells St., the football team is undefeated. Just being able to practice officially let them and other athletes believe the playoffs are still possible, CBS 2’s Jermont Terry reported.
“I jumped up and down. I got the email, I was flipping out,” said Payton senior Sage Shindler.
The undefeated Grizzlies were indoors at Payton during the weather – and the fact that school will be out for an 11th day on Thursday with the strike still not resolved was a matter of concern.
Payton students know there are no guarantees that they will be able to finish the season.
“We really didn’t think it was going to be like this,” Shindler said. “We thought it was going to be like one to two days and we’d be back.”
The same feeling was in the air at Phillips Academy High School, 244 E. Pershing Rd. The Wildcats were pumped to get back on the practice field – optimistically eyeing the playoffs.
“Man, it feels great to be out here – just the experience to be out here with family and the guys – it’s amazing,” said Phillips senior Rayshaun Thompson.
But Thompson said not knowing if the team will be in the playoffs this weekend has left many student athletes with anxiety.
“It’s stressful, especially considering this is my last year playing ball, and this the seniors’ last time to play ball, and this is bad for us,” Thompson said.
With the teachers’ strike lasting so long, student athletes realize there is a chance they may never get back on the field and suit up.
“We had this one goal to win a state playoff game,” Shindler said. “I’d be crushed. I think everyone on this team would be devastated by it.
The strike, again, has to be over by Friday in order for the teams to play in the playoffs on Saturday.