Former Fenger High School football players accused of following coach to CVCA
BY MARY MITCHELL firstname.lastname@example.org August 20, 2012 8:06PM
Updated: September 22, 2012 6:35AM
Gerrell Doss, 17, should be on the football field this weekend.
But because a former football coach at Fenger High School is accused of persuading Doss and eight other players of following him to Chicago Vocational Career Academy, Doss and his teammates are barred from playing this entire season.
For Doss, a senior, CPS’ unfavorable ruling is a particularly hard blow.
“We’ve been treated pretty unfairly,” said Liz Doss, Gerrell’s mother. “Right now my son is messed up behind this.”
The sports director for Chicago Public Schools ruled the players were ineligible to play football at CVCA. A committee composed of principals from 10 high schools affirmed that decision last week.
CPS issued the following statement:
“The CPS Athletic Association bylaws outline very specific rules that govern transfers between schools and eligibility for student-athletes within Chicago Public Schools. The rules are in place to maintain a level and competitive playing field for all schools. The students received a fair hearing, which determined that they are ineligible to play football at their current schools this year.”
If they want to play football, they’ll have to do it for Fenger.
All nine of the players told school officials that they transferred out of Fenger because they didn’t feel “safe.”
But CPS officials believe a former coach, Cassius Chambers, 29, illegally recruited the players.
“They were actually going to bring in the coach for a hearing but he left and is apparently coaching at Hales,” a source familiar with the matter told me.
Chambers is not listed on the school directory for Hales Franciscan, and I was unable to reach him by phone on Monday.
But when Chambers coached at Fenger, his relationship with his football players raised questions.
In October 2011, Chambers was charged with misdemeanor simple assault in connection with an attack on a student suspected of stealing a pair of Nike flip-flops.
The coach was accused of driving 20 to 30 football players to a home where they allegedly attacked a 16-year-old and his 15-year-old nephew.
Darion Jones, the 16-year-old Fenger student, lost a tooth and his prosthetic eye in the assault.
A month later, however, the misdemeanor assault charges were dropped against Chambers.
CPS claimed the charges against Chambers were “unsubstantiated.” The criminal charges were dropped, and Chambers got his coaching job back.
Now, Chambers is being accused of illegally recruiting the football players. The real tragedy is these players are now barred from taking part in an activity that would keep them off the street and possibly save their lives.
You would think it would be on CPS to prove there are no safety concerns at Fenger given the deadly mob beating near the school in 2009. (Then, Fenger student Derrion Albert was beaten to death in a mob fight that was videotaped and broadcast across the country.)
“Somebody told me Gerrell is welcome to come back [to Fenger], but it wasn’t all about football,” Doss said. “It was about my son being safe. But they didn’t believe nothing we said. The kids wrote letters. Other parents talked.
“But when I walked in there, I knew their minds were already made up. I just don’t want him to give up.”
Doss said she is taking her vacation this week so she can spend the time trying to help her son.
“I’ve been emailing people because I think they were treated unfairly. They were looking up to the coach. Maybe he did tell them [to transfer], but he never said that to me. My son never said nothing to me like that. These kids are getting penalized, but this coach is coaching somewhere else.”
The eligibility rules keep unethical coaches from cherrypicking in someone else’s yard.
But in this case, the illegal cherrypicker isn’t the one being punished.
I can’t blame Doss for being upset.
These teens are taking the hit for an authority figure’s misdeed.