In the wake of a shooting near last week's football game between Providence and Hope Academy, St. Francis has forfeited its football game Friday night in Chicago against Hope Academy.
Gunfire heard near Hope's home field at Altgeld Park, bordered by South Washtenaw Avenue and West Harrison Street on Chicago's West Side, caused players from Providence and Hope to hit the turf and take cover early in a game last Friday. The Herald-News reported that after about 20 minutes police gave an "all-clear" and the game was completed, Providence winning 56-14.
Thursday morning St. Francis athletic director Dan Hardwick said the two schools had tried working out alternatives for three days before St. Francis made its decision Wednesday afternoon to forfeit the game, which was Hope's homecoming. The sophomore game remains in play at 11 a.m. Saturday in Wheaton.
"It's a very difficult decision, but we have to make decisions that are in the best interests of the safety of our kids," said Hardwick, noting that a June 21 shooting near Altgeld Park requiring evacuation of Little League baseball games, in addition to possible 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.
Hope Academy founder and president Bob Muzikowski did not initially respond to an email Thursday morning requesting comment.
Options discussed included moving the game to St. Francis, with the Wheaton school giving Hope gate receipts and travel expenses, Hardwick said. The two schools also considered moving the game Saturday to St. Ignatius, at West Roosevelt Road near South Racine Avenue, but that facility was unavailable.
Hardwick stressed no "ill will" toward Hope Academy, which would improve to 5-2 on the season with a forfeit win while St. Francis drops to 1-6. He said St. Francis preferred to "err on the side of caution."
Chicago Hope Academy, a private Christian preparatory school with an enrollment of 212 students, opened in August 2005.
"It's very unfortunate," Hardwick said of the cancellation. "We completely support and agree with the mission of Hope Academy."