OAK PARK – Fenwick High School is ready to move on after a Cook County Circuit Court judge declined to intervene to reverse a bad call that lost the school the opportunity to play for a state football title.
The bad call came on what should have been the final play in regulation of the Class 7A state semifinal game between Fenwick, a private Catholic high school in suburban Oak Park, and Plainfield North high schools. Officials mistakenly awarded Plainfield an untimed down after calling an intentional grounding penalty on Fenwick when time had run out and the score was 10-7. Plainfield North then kicked a field goal to tie the game, which then went into overtime. Plainfield went on to win the game 18-17.
The extending of play beyond regulation time violated Illinois High School Association (IHSA) football rules and led to Fenwick losing the game. IHSA maintained, under its bylaws, the decision of a game official is final and can not be reviewed by the association's board of directors. As a result, Plainfield North advanced to the Class 7A state championship game.
Fenwick appealed the outcome of the game to the IHSA, which refused to hear the appeal. Fenwick then filed a lawsuit in Cook County Circuit Court against the IHSA.
Judge Kathleen Kennedy dismissed Fenwick’s request to overturn the call that cost them the game, finding that the IHSA had applied its rules consistently and hadn’t violated Fenwick’s due process rights.
Following the ruling, Peter Groom, principal at Fenwick High School, told the Cook County Record: “Judge Kennedy made her decision. Once that decision was made it was time for Fenwick to move forward.”
The decision no doubt disheartened Fenwick students, but the school has since looked to move on and focus on the success the team had this year.
“Our school community and the players were obviously disappointed with the decision,” said Groom. “With that being said, they understand the importance of looking back at the incredible season that they had and moving forward in a positive way.”
While the ruling could have had major implications for high school sports, Groom said he was not surprised by Kennedy's decision.
“We thought the decision could go either way, so we were not surprised by the ruling,” Groom said.
During court proceedings, Fenwick argued the IHSA violated its contract with the school, which also extended to the field, and broke its own rules, which put students in danger and violated its code of conduct. Fenwick was represented by law firm Greenberg Traurig, which sought a temporary restraining order enforcing the purported terms of the contract between Fenwick and IHSA, and declaring the game to have ended on the play when the clock expired in regulation with Fenwick in the lead.
Going forward, Groom said Fenwick wants to make sure that nothing like this happens to another school and wants to work with the IHSA on the matter.
“We would like to work with the IHSA to see if we can make create some flexibility in their by-laws so the same thing does not happen to a school again,” said Groom.