In the wake of a shooting near a game in Chicago last week, a suburban Illinois school forfeited its football game Friday night due to safety concerns.
St. Francis (Wheaton, Ill.) forfeited its game at Chicago Hope Academy. As the Daily Herald reported, this decision came a week after a shooting at a game between Providence Catholic (New Lenox, Ill.) and Hope.
Last Friday, gunfire heard near Hope’s home field at Altgeld Park on Chicago’s West Side caused players from Providence and Hope to hit the turf and take cover early in the game. The Herald-News reported that after about 20 minutes police gave an “all-clear” and the game was completed, with Providence winning 56-14.
Thursday morning, St. Francis athletic director Dan Hardwick told the Daily Herald the two schools had tried to work out alternatives before St. Francis made the decision Wednesday to forfeit, which also happened to be Hope’s homecoming.
“It’s a very difficult decision, but we have to make decisions that are in the best interests of the safety of our kids,” Hardwick said, per the Daily Herald. A June 21 shooting near Altgeld Park requiring evacuation of Little League baseball games, as well as the potential of retaliation from the Sept. 29 shooting, added to the decision.
“In the face of all that I hope Hope understands we have an obligation to keep our kids safe,” Hardwick said.
In a statement on the St. Francis website, school president Tom Bednar wrote:
“The safety of ALL players, coaches, students and fans is our primary concern. Regrettably, the combination of shots being fired near last Friday’s game at the same field and the lack of other venues led us to believe that the safest option for all would be to not play this Friday night at Hope Field Altgeld Park and forfeit the game.”
Among the options were to move the game to St. Francis and reimburse Hope, or to move the game to St. Ignatius in a different part of Chicago’s West Side. Those facilities, however, were unavailable.
Hope Academy founder Bob Muzikowski told WGN-TV that last Friday night’s shooting nearby was the first violent episode in 13 years of Hope football. He added that security would have been robust at Friday’s game.
Hope improves to 5-2 with the forfeit win while St. Francis dropped to 1-6.
“It’s very unfortunate,” Hardwick told the Daily Herald, referring to the cancellation. “We completely support and agree with the mission of Hope Academy.”