CHICAGO (CN) – A Cook County judge dealt the final blow Wednesday to a suburban Chicago high school football team that claimed it had been cheated out of a semifinal victory, losing the “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity” to play in the state championship.
Fenwick High School, a private Catholic school in Oak Park, Ill., sued the Illinois High School Association on Monday after the organization refused to hold a hearing challenging a football official’s call that Fenwick says cost it a semifinals win against Plainfield North High School last week.
According to the Fenwick’s complaint, with four seconds left in the football game, “Fenwick and its students flooded the field to celebrate Fenwick’s first trip to the state finals. Time expired with the final score being Fenwick 10, Plainfield North 7.”
However, Plainfield North actually ended up winning the game 17-18 after an official gave the team an untimed down at the end of the game that lead to a tie, sending the contest into overtime.
The down was awarded because of a foul that Fenwick claims specified a loss of down, which would have still ended the game.
“In an obvious and fully admitted breach of contract, an IHSA official deliberately changed the outcome of a completed semi-final contest, thereby awarding a ‘win’ to the school that ‘lost’,” Monday’s lawsuit states.
The school filed an appeal with IHSA after the game, but the organization backed out of a hearing, saying it did not have the authority to change the game’s outcome.
In a statement on IHSA’s website, Director Craig Anderson admitted the official’s error but said an organization bylaw “clearly states that ‘the decisions of game officials shall be final; protests against the decision of a game official shall not be reviewed by the board of directors.’”
Cook County Circuit Court Judge Kathleen G. Kennedy agreed with IHSA on Wednesday, upholding the results of the game.
Fenwick lost what its complaint said was the opportunity “to participate in its first-ever state championship in football, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity by anyone’s definition.”
IHSA said on its website Wednesday that Judge Kennedy’s decision is “is not a victory. There is no celebration and there are no winners in this circumstance. It is simply a resolution.”
“The Fenwick High School community has been dealt a pair of devastating blows over the past few days, while Plainfield North had a historic moment shrouded in controversy simply for following the rules provided for them, first by the game officials, and then by the IHSA,” the organization said in a statement issued after the ruling. “We will move forward now.”
IHSA added, “Judge Kennedy recognized the historic precedent that would have resulted if she had overturned the outcome of the game based on an officiating error.”
Plainfield North will play in the state championships at the University of Illinois this weekend.
Fenwick was represented in the case by Peter Rush of Greenberg Traurig LLP, and by DLA Piper LLP and Aronberg Goldgehn.