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IHSA denies CPS waiver to continue sports amid strike — but practices might continue

Whitney Young plays Hope public league game Thursday September 5 2012. Whitney Young defender Christian Everett breaks up pass intended

Whitney Young plays Hope in a public league game Thursday, September 5, 2012. Whitney Young defender Christian Everett breaks up a pass intended for Hope receiver Lorenzo Davis in the first quarter of play. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times

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Updated: October 12, 2012 6:17AM

The games won’t go on — but the practices sessions may — for Chicago Public Schools students during the teachers strike that began on Monday.

The Illinois High School Association’s board of directors on Monday turned down a CPS request to waive a bylaw prohibiting teams from playing interscholastic contests during a strike.

IHSA Executive Director Marty Hickman said the organization’s directors were uncomfortable with the idea of waiving a rule that has been enforced during numerous strikes around the state over the years.

“They felt that it was really beyond the scope of their authority,” Hickman said. “This was a bylaw approved by our membership. It says very clearly, if you’re on strike, you can’t participate in interscholastic athletic activities. It wasn’t like granting a waiver to a board policy, it was a bylaw.”

But IHSA rules give local school boards the option to allow organized practices with coaches during walkouts, and the top CPS sports official said Monday the city would pursue that approach.

“We will give consideration in cases where certified coaches are present and all participating student-athletes have parent permission and medical clearance,” Public League director of sports administration Calvin Davis wrote in a text message. “Safety is paramount and location is important as well.”

Until any CPS contingency plan is in place for coaches to return to practice, athletes are resorting to organizing their own workouts. Among those who did so on Monday were the football and girls cross country teams at Whitney Young and Dunbar’s football team.

Among those hoping to work with their teams again soon is Dunbar football coach Glenn Johnson. “Even though I’m respecting the teachers strike, I would [coach] because I’m non-union,” Johnson said.

“You’ve been training for a whole summer, you’ve had three games and all of a sudden you’re going to abruptly stop? I can’t wait [to coach again]. We’re 0-3 right now; I’ve never been 0-3 in my life.”

Bob Geiger, who teaches at Whitney Young and coaches the girls cross country team, has no intention of crossing the teachers’ picket line in order to return to his team.

“Any union member that coaches a [Public League] team is a scab,” Geiger said.

Foreseeing the possibility of a strike, Geiger passed out copies of every workout he planned for the season to several of his older runners. “It’s a great teaching tool, to teach our kids how to be leaders from the beginning so they can succeed. ...

“I told them, ‘You guys organize practice. You guys have learned everything you need to know, pass that knowledge on.’ ”

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