An Illinois high school football player who missed several practices while attending basic training for the U.S. Army National Guard will have to sit out the team's season opener. The Illinois High School Association has denied Paxton-Buckley-Loda High School senior Eddie Nuss a waiver to play on Aug. 26, citing concerns over his safety because he was unable to attend the mandated 12 preseason practices. Nuss has been in military training in Fort Benning, Ga., since June and is expected to return home later this week. PBL opens it season next Friday.
"I'm disappointed," Nuss's father, Pat, told the Paxton Record. "It's not like he's on vacation. He's not running around doing something illegal. He's doing something good for the country. ... Four days a week, [Eddie] runs five miles with his gear and pack on. That's an extra 20-30 pounds in 100-plus degrees. He'll be in better shape than any kid on the football field when he's out of basic training."
"There's this overriding safety issue," countered IHSA executive director Marty Hickman to the Record's Cody Westerlund. "Our sports medicine committee continues to feel that being in shape and being in football shape are two different things. We've had this issue a number of times. It's been brought to the board's attention, and they've consistently said that they're not interested in modifying this policy."
Consequently, the board did not accept a signed waiver from the Nuss family's attorney releasing the association from any liability. Hickman said the IHSA's attorney claims that Pat Nuss (himself an Army veteran) signing off on his son's rights "would not necessarily fully protect us in the event of an injury."
State Sen. Shane Cultra, R-Onarga, isn't happy with the ISHA's decision and told ESPN Chicago that he planned to propose legislation that would prevent something like this from happening again. "Eddie's going to lose out, but this will be for everyone else," Cultra told reporter Scott Powers. "I think there should be exceptions. This would only deal with kids in the military. The law I would propose would be for those who don't have enough practices, their coaches and athletic directors could make a recommendation to the school board, and they would have the right to waive up to the 12 practices."
"Here a kid is, doing the right thing, taking his military training over the summer, but he can't get back in time and they're going to penalize him? I don't think it's right," Cultra additionally told the Record. "I think some allowances need to be made. It doesn't make any sense."