MIKE NIETO: St. Francis de Sales did the right thing in football

2013-09-19T19:00:00Z 2013-09-20T02:32:06Z MIKE NIETO: St. Francis de Sales did the right thing in footballMike Nieto Prep Beat nwitimes.com
September 19, 2013 7:00 pm  • 

St. Francis de Sales' decision Monday to cancel its varsity football season might be met with mixed feelings.

There are those who might say the school should just drop the program instead of dropping down to a junior varsity schedule for the remainder of this year and next year.

If you are a scheduled opponent, you get a forfeit, but most teams want to play the game. It is also too late to find another opponent.

The school had no choice but to make the decision it did. The numbers were so low that it would not be fair to send 14-year-old freshmen against varsity players. You run the risk of serious injuries, and if not injuries, the chance of those kids never wanting to play football again.

The administration made the right call.

Director of football operations Tom Gullickson and head football coach Guy Smith can work with the younger kids and go out and try to get some incoming freshmen for next year.

It was a different story when Gullickson was hired June 25 and John Terry was named head coach. A month later, Terry was let go and Smith was hired just before practice began. In fact, he was on his honeymoon.

Gullickson and Smith will do what needs to be done to rebuild the program. A lot will need to be done, but they can offer a lot. The school is very good, academically, and offers a smaller teacher-to-student ratio. Their students need to come from the East Side, South Chicago and Hegewisch neighborhoods, but that is not to say the school cannot draw from other areas and suburbs. It does and will continue to do so. The school is as much as part of the East Side as the streets named after the alphabet.

Gullickson played for legendary coaches in Gordie Gillespie at Joliet Catholic and Ara Parseghian at Notre Dame. Smith played at Rich Central and was at St. Xavier University when it started to become a national power.

It is easy to laugh at what happened, but the point is not to make fun of anyone, especially the remaining football players who want to play. For the freshmen, it is a chance to grow and maybe get the program back to respectability.

This is the second time in five years the school has dropped its varsity program down. If it wants student-athletes to be serious, this has to be the last time this happens.

The talk of rejoining the Chicago Catholic League in the next couple of years is not going to happen. Gullickson knows he has to build from the ground up as if the school is starting the program from scratch.

I really think the program can come back and be very competitive. It will take a lot of work, but I think Gully and Smith can get it done.

This column is solely the writer's opinion. Reach him at mike.nieto@nwi.com.

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