Just out of reach. File photo, Photo Credit: Jane Rickard
Tuesday was a bad day for Gordon football. The Rams (5-5) turned in their equipment after forfeiting to Leo (5-6) in the Catholic League playoffs.
“I’m extremely disappointed because playing in the Prep Bowl was our goal,” admitted Gordon quarterback Julian Russell over the weekend after learning about the forfeit.
“I felt bad for the Gordon Tech people,” Leo head coach Mike Holmes said after learning his squad was reinstated to the playoffs. “I don’t think the coach at Gordon tried to break the rules. They broke a rule and that was the bottom line.”
Gordon beat Leo 14-8 on October 29 to advance to the second round of the Catholic League playoffs. The victory was overturned by the Catholic League on November 4.
The Rams forfeited for using two ineligible players in the win against the Lions. According to the bylaws of the Catholic League, freshmen are ineligible to participate in varsity games against league opponents. Freshmen are allowed to play in the state football playoffs.
Hales (7-4) beat Leo 20-12 last Saturday night.
Paul Rivas and Adrian Salinas came off the bench and played in a reserve role in the win over Leo at Luther North.
In an exclusive with The Welles Park Bulldog, league officials Jim Prunty and Jim Muting explained their decision on Tuesday.
“It’s a very unfortunate situation,” said Prunty who is currently the Athletic Director at St. Ignatius. “I feel bad for Gordon. Paul Chabura is an excellent athletic director and Bill Jeske is a good football coach.”
Prunty was the basketball coach at St Rita while Muting served as head varsity baseball coach at De La Salle.
“It was difficult to make this decision against Gordon,” said Muting who was interviewed on Tuesday afternoon. “I want to say that Paul Chabura (Gordon Athletic Director) does wonderful things for Gordon. He’s a top notch guy. As president of the Catholic League I had to follow what the league rules and bylaws are even though I might have disagreed with the actions taken in filing a protest. I have to leave my personal feelings out of it and have to deal with the rules and bylaws of the Catholic League.”
At an October 19 meeting for league officials Prunty and Muting claim that the Athletic Directorss were told that coaches couldn’t use freshmen in the upcoming Catholic League playoffs because of league rules.
“My athletic director is not an idiot,” said Gordon head football coach Bill Jeske. “Don’t you think he would have told me that freshmen couldn’t play in the Catholic League playoffs. I don’t think anybody is a better representative for Gordon than Paul Chabura (Gordon athletic director). There is nobody I respect more than that guy. Not once in my mind did I think that our AD made a mistake.”
Jeske also mentioned that he was told by Bishop McNamara High School head coach Rich Ziannini during a league meeting that freshmen could play in the Catholic League playoffs and not the regular season. The bylaw just states that freshmen are ineligible to play in varsity games against Catholic League opponents.
Chabura has decided not to comment on the situation for now.
Chabura told parents last week that Gordon was appealing the forfeit.
“Let me make it be perfectly clear that no one at Gordon played freshman to gain an unfair advantage,” stated Chabura in a letter last Friday to parents.
Unfortunately, this episode has become a soap opera. Prunty in an exclusive interview told The Bulldog that he told Leo Athletic Director Ed Adams that freshmen couldn’t play in the Catholic League playoffs. Leo was hoping to add a freshman quarterback to the roster.
Gordon added 13 freshmen for the rematch with Leo while the Lions added 10 sophomores. Leo beat Gordon 39-19 during the regular season.
“I just wish people would tell the truth,” added Jeske on this matter.
Jeske put the blame on himself over the weekend.
“I guess I am fault,” Jeske said on Saturday morning. “I should have checked the rules.”
Jeske is upset with Leo for filing a protest and with Prunty for not informing the school of his conversation with Adams comcerning freshmen participation in the Catholic League playoffs.
“I’d be disappointed if Gordon was blaming me for this debacle,” stated Prunty.
Prunty is disappointed with Leo filing a protest over two players who were just reserves and not starters and had no impact on the game.
“I am disappointed we got to this point,” Prunty said on Tuesday morning. “I would never do that to any school in our league. I wouldn’t have handled it that way. Neither kid had an impact on the game. It would be different if they scored a touchdown or rushed for 100 yards. They played seven downs.”
Based on conversations both on the record and off the record, three things have appeared to be true:
- Gordon should have done a better job of checking the rules
- Leo shouldn’t have filed a protest after losing
- The Catholic League also should have done a better job of dealing with this issue as well since it cones up every season.
“I’m sure we are going to discuss it.” added Prunty on freshmen eligibility in Catholic League football.
“To be honest, according to the IHSA, freshman can play football,” said Muting. “We do have it on our agenda for our next meeting. We go through this issue every year with the Prep Bowl.”
“We are probably the only league in the state that doesn’t allow freshman to play on varsity,” added Holmes.
Jeske is also upset that Gordon’s reputation and his name has been hurt by this incident.
“To be called a liar and a cheater is not the way I was raised or how oI coach football,” Jeske stated before his final meeting with the Rams. I’m heartbroken. My name has been tarnished along with the great name of Gordon and Tom Winiecki.”