Teachers' strike sidelines CPS football

The Chicago Public Schools' teachers and school board continue their labor negotiations with a deal appearing to be long out of sight. Meanwhile, CPS football prospects are left sidelined as their season has come to a halt. With the teachers' strike still ongoing, frustration grows for CPS football players.

It was a regular Tuesday, normally a school day, for Demetrius Cooper. Instead of sitting in a classroom at Chicago Julien High School, Cooper was at home. So were his classmates.

The Chicago Public School teachers' strike officially began on Monday, keeping Chicago Public School students from their schools. The Illinois High School Association denied a CPS waiver allowing athletic contests to be played during the strike, stating the request was beyond the governing body's authority.

For Cooper, a Michigan State-bound senior defensive end, that meant no organized practice, even with a game slated for Friday night.

"I'm too bored," Cooper said. "It's game week. I've been bored for a couple days. Hopefully [the strike] will be over and I won't be bored anymore."

Cooper and his Julien teammates have assembled at the school's practice field for captains' practice, including a team workout. Many other schools have done so, too. However, without coaches and a game to prepare for, football doesn't feel the same.

"That's all we've got to do at this point in time," said Simeon linebacker Reggie Spearman, an Illinois verbal commitment.

Both Cooper and Spearman are in the fortunate situation of having their football futures set with Big Ten schools. Many of their teammates aren't so lucky, though.

Chicago Public League players looking to earn recruiting interest in their senior season must wait out the strike and hope their window hasn't closed.

"They have to work their butts off ever game to get that exposure, to get that chance, to get a scholarship," Cooper said. "With the strike going on, they're losing that chance. I feel really bad for those guys right now."

As the negotiations drag on, with no deal currently in sight, college coaches will miss the opportunity to evaluate senior prospects.

"You're obviously disappointed for the young men, especially for the seniors," said Northwestern head coach Pat Fitzgerald. "They only get one opportunity to play."

The IHSA ruling handed down on Monday has Northwestern's head coach and numerous others feeling frustrated, knowing CPS football players are sidelined.

"At the end of the day, we're all here as adults for the kids," said Fitzgerald. "Let the kids play. What does it matter if the kids play? I just don't understand that. Give them the opportunity to continue to further in a game they love and beyond that, hopefully get them back in the classroom."

The union and school board were reported to be 'miles apart' in their negotiations, leaving open the possibility that CPS schools may miss many games -- possibly even the entire regular season.

Chicago Public School students are eager for the strike to end, allowing them to return to school.

"I hope this strike ends as soon as possible," Spearman said. "I'm ready to get back to school and be back in the classroom."

Chris Emma has covered recruiting, college athletics and professional baseball for FOX Sports Next since 2009. Emma covered the Nebraska Cornhuskers for Big Red Report, and currently covers the Northwestern Wildcats and Chicago Cubs. He currently resides on Chicago's north side.
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