Just two weeks after forfeiting to Taft, Young officially canceled its football season because of a dwindling roster caused by injuries and academic struggles.
Young principal Dr. Joyce Kenner confirmed the decision Tuesday, adding that she spoke with the players before making the announcement on the school intercom at the end of the day Monday.
Kenner said most of the players agreed with her decision.
“Obviously, there were some sad faces, but I know everyone agreed this was the right decision to do for this school,” Kenner said.
Coach Tim Franken said the decision didn’t surprise him.
“Our numbers have been low since last spring,” said Franken, who has been coaching football at Young for 24 years and has never seen the participation numbers this low. “Most of the players are underclassmen, sophomores and freshmen. I could just see it was very difficult for our young team to compete against teams coming up, and there was a concern for their safety.”
Franken hinted that the lack of interest in playing football could stem from the sport’s concussion controversy or the school’s wide variety of varsity sports.
But the decision ultimately came down to the team’s inability to compete with a short-handed roster.
Chicago Public Schools mandate that teams need at least 22 players to play, but the Dolphins have only 19 active players.
The football program started the season with 26 players, but seven became ineligible to play. Four players are out with injuries — most of which were suffered in Week 3 against Goode — and three others couldn’t maintain academic eligibility.
Kenner said students won’t be able to participate in athletic events if they have multiple failing assignments in a class in a week.
“We just don’t tolerate that,” Kenner said. “Academics are a priority. And if they can’t compete in the classroom, they can’t compete on the playing field or have that opportunity to play on the field.”
The football season was canceled just days before Young’s homecoming game. The school now will celebrate homecoming at the boys’ soccer game against Curie at 4:15 p.m. Thursday. The five senior football players will be honored on the field before the game, and the team will participate in the school’s pep rally.
Kenner said Young will look to rebuild its program but wouldn’t detail how the school might go about it.
“We’re definitely going to bring football back next school year,” Kenner said.
Franken, the chairman of Young’s physical-education department, also is confident in the program’s future.
“A few years ago, we’re 9-0 and in the state playoffs, and in a short time this dropped,” Franken said. “The encouraging thing is, we have freshmen and sophomores that are skilled and want to play, and that molds well for me for the future of the program.”
Young was 0-5 this season and coming off a 72-0 loss to Simeon on Friday. The Dolphins had only three games left.
Contributing: Michael O’Brien
Follow me on Twitter @madkenney.