Darlene Kruse's 10-year-old son came home from school on Wednesday saying he didn't even want to play football anymore.
Kruse estimates about 70 percent of her son's Mokena Burros youth football team, spurred on in part by this week's announcement that the park district won't rent space to the Burros, is moving over to the new Mokena Jr. Griffins youth football team.
Until Wednesday, Kruse was considering sending her 10 year old to the Jr. Griffins and keep her 8 year old with the Burros. Now, she's not sure what to do.
"Half their friends are leaving and that feels like a competition to them. It feels like the town is being torn," Kruse said.
Park district Executive Director Jim Romanek this week said the district would not be entering an affiliation agreement with the Burros. Although the team has played without an official agreement for years, under the new administration, no agreement means the district will not rent fields to the Burros.
On Thursday morning, Romanek said he had contacted Burros President Joe Lentz about coming back to the table to discuss an affiliation agreement and was awaiting the Burros' response.
Burros' PR representative Lisa Gunggoll said the Burros will be releasing a statement Friday morning on the status of the program and the upcoming season.
Agreement Terms Set, District Says
Romanek said the district sent an affiliation agreement for the Burros to sign, but it came back edited with changes the district did not agree to.
During Tuesday's board meeting, Burros President Joe Lentz asked for further meetings to come to terms on an agreement.
Romanek told Patch after the meeting that the affiliation agreement needs to be signed "as it is."
He said the Mokena Baseball/Softball Association, several smaller sports teams and the Jr. Griffins already signed the agreement.
Parks vs. Burros or Jr. Griffins vs. Burros?
This leaves Kruse and other Mokena parents unsure of what to do just days before the new Mokena Jr. Griffins' March 3 registration.
Burros alumni registration is March 8. Open enrollment starts March 22.
"Honestly, I feel like I am being forced into the Griffins for both my kids," Kruse said.
Jr. Griffins varsity coach George Metanias said people should not see the disagreement over the affiliation agreement as one between the Burros and Jr. Griffins.
"The main thing is trying to explain to the people that this issue is between the park district and the Burros and not the Jr. Griffins and the Burros," said Metanias, who coached for the Burros for 15 years.
Park district board member Jim Richmond, who also sits on the Jr. Griffins board, declined to comment for this story.
In a previous interview with Patch, board President Dennis Bagdon said the decision was Romanek's, not the board's.
"This board backs Mr. Romanek's decisions 100 percent because we know it's always in the best interest of the park district," Bagdon said.
Past Burros Violations
A Burros coach last fall broke the park district's code of conduct by pushing a player to the ground and calling the child an insulting name, Bagdon said, confirming a recent SouthtownStar article.
"We worked it out and we moved forward," he told Patch earlier this week.
Kruse said people should not condemn the whole Burros program for past incidents.
"Yes, there was a lot of competition and a lot of politics and a lot of bad things happening around us, but it is football and if done right—which my kids are learning it correctly—(the kids) are being taught sportsmanship and how to play the game and how to have fun," Kruse said.
Updated at 11:40 a.m. with Romanek's comments about contacting the Burros.