Whitney Young Magnet Highschool with just days away from homecoming canceled the remainder of its football season in an announcement Monday. The West Loop selective-enrollment Chicago public school will instead designate it soccer game against Curie Metropolitan High School on Thursday as its homecoming game for the year.
Principal Joyce Kenner made the announcement the change over the school’s loudspeakers at the end of the school day saying the football team didn’t have enough players to compete.
“This is the best-case scenario, and I think it’s the right decision,” Kenner said to DNAinfo. “We collectively as a school decided it was not safe to play football with the numbers we had.”
But the senior football players will still be honored during the homecoming pep rally as well as the soccer game, which will be a competitive face-off between two excellent teams, according to Kenner.
The football team was in on the decision as well.
After a few handful of injuries that happened over the weekend as well as two student athletes deemed academically ineligible, the team sunk down to 19 players — which is below the Chicago Public Schools threshold of 22 students, said Kenner.
“When it comes to a students’ academic eligibility, ‘we are a no-nonsense school’, and students have to be maintaining their grade point averages in the classroom,….that’s a rule we have here, and it’s a stiff rule.” Kenner says that football will be back this time next year but with “some major changes,” yet did not give specifics.
Halfway through the season, the football team had two October games raining in addition to Thursday’s homecoming game. The school had to put the word out it needed more players after the season started as the team was trounced in all of its early games. One parent claimed she saw early practices that held fewer than 20 students. A drop in football players has been an issue nationwide as concern grows over the risk of brain injury in contact sports, says Kenner.
“Parents are afraid to allow their children to play, and students are choosing other sports,” said Kenner
Rumors of the possible season cancellation popped up in the student newspaper the Beacon. The school had already canceled a Sept. 15 game against Taft High and a petition was circulating among students to switch the homecoming game to soccer despite not everyone being in favor of the idea.
“Homecoming wouldn’t have the same feeling if the game leading up to the dance wasn’t a football game,” Manuel Caracamo a senior told the paper. “There is just something about football that makes it the ideal sport.”