Strike over, football questions linger

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Peter Casey and Shianne Baggett won’t look at sports in quite the same way again.

The Young athletes were among those all over the city idled by the Chicago Public Schools teachers strike. With the Chicago Teachers Union’s House of Delegates voting Tuesday to end the walkout, Casey will be back on the football field and Baggett will be back running cross country Wednesday after a full day of classes. And they couldn’t be happier their unplanned break is over.

“Just a relief, it’s been stressful on everybody,” said Casey, a junior lineman whose mother is a vision and hearing screener for CPS. “It definitely showed me how much I missed [sports].”

“I was really relieved,” Baggett said. “I’m just really happy to go back to school. You don’t appreciate what you have until it’s gone.”

While Public League teams in most fall sports should be able to make up events postponed during the strike, that may not be the case for football.

Week 4 games pitting charter schools — which remained in session during the seven-day CPS strike — against CPS schools have been ruled forfeit wins for the charter schools, according to the Illinois High School Association website. Contests between two Public League schools have been declared “no game,” according to IHSA assistant executive director Craig Anderson, who oversees football. Games in the Inter-City 3 section, which is made up entirely of charter schools, were played as scheduled.

An IHSA rule requires that teams have three days of practice before they can resume playing games after a strike of 7-14 days. According to a CPS spokesman, practices will take place Wednesday, Thursday and Friday and games will be played Saturday, Sunday and Monday, with slight schedule tweaking.

“I think Mickey [Pruitt, Public League football coordinator] has a tentative schedule, [but] he hasn’t sent it our direction yet,” Anderson said.

Football coaches like Simeon’s Dante Culbreath and Young’s Tim Franken aren’t sweating the details. They’re just glad to be back in business.

“I’m excited about being able to get back around my guys,” Culbreath said. “They’ve been away almost a week and a half. I don’t know what to expect.”

“I don’t know if anybody missed it more than I did,” Franken said. “You miss not being with the kids.”

Some Simeon alumni helped Culbreath get through his downtime. Martez Wilson of the New Orleans Saints and Illinois’ Jack Ramsey were among those checking in with their former coach, keeping his spirits up.

“I’ve been really out of the loop, not being myself,” Cubreath said. “At this time of the year, it’s always [about] football and trying to get these young men an opportunity to go to college.”

Having an enforced separation from his football team, Culbreath added, “makes me appreciate what we do.”

And appreciate the chance to get back to doing it again.

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