After an emotional meeting between students, parents and school administrators Monday night, those who wanted the Oxbridge Academy football program revived left with a little bit of hope.
The school administration quickly quashed that hope.
The school announced Wednesday that it was shutting down its football program, but after Monday’s meeting, some players and their parents thought they might have changed some minds.
“They listened and they said, ‘Well, you’ve given us food for thought; we’re going to reconvene,’ ” said Vanessa Cantave, the mother of junior Daymon Cantave. “I honestly thought it was going to be: ‘Nope, sorry guys; we can’t do it.’
“There’s a tiny piece of me that’s hoping.”
But the school did not budge.
“Although there has been an outpouring of support from the community to continue the program, the fact still remains that at this time we do not have enough players to play safely next year,” the school said in a statement. “Our decision has not changed. However, a number of new suggestions were made this evening, which we are reviewing.”
An Oxbridge Academy spokesperson declined to explain what was being reviewed.
The school cited low participation after 15 seniors graduated and eight key players announced their transfers, but Cantave said the school didn’t take everyone into an account.
“Everyone that was there, a lot of incoming freshmen who weren’t even on the list, said, ‘Wait a minute; you didn’t even ask me. I’m ready and willing, and I’m ready to go,’ ” Cantave said. “So the story changed. It really flipped because all of a sudden ‘We don’t have enough players,’ is not true.”
Parents said the meeting started with a letter from school founder Bill Koch, which parents said stated that he didn’t plan on the school having a football program.
“It was a little scary to hear that because I thought ‘Well, are you saying that since it wasn’t your original vision, we can’t count on that anymore?’ ” Cantave said. “Are you saying you don’t care for it? That was a little disturbing and scary.”
The ThunderWolves’ program played five seasons, going 48-10. Oxbridge made it to the Class 3A state championship game last year, where the ThunderWolves fell to Hollywood-Chaminade Madonna 31-28 in Orlando.
Another parent, Danielle Gilles, said the school was focused on the lack of offensive linemen.
“They kept harping on linemen,” she said.
Since the school announced its decision, an Oxbridge player and his mother started a petition to revive the program. That petition has received more than 1,100 signatures. Oxbridge players are hoping for the program to return, as players who remain at the school will not be able to play elsewhere, according to the Florida High School Athletic Association.
Gilles was unhappy with the school because she believes the school is forcing her son, rising junior Dylan Lacroix, to choose between playing football and getting a good education.
“Oxbridge is the best of both worlds; he can get a great education and he can play for a good school,” she said. “I feel that the decision forced me, as a parent, and my son, as a student, to choose between having a good education and playing at a good school.”
Unless the school decides to revive the program, players will have to decide between staying at Oxbridge or transferring somewhere else to play. Daniel Hutchinson, a rising senior wide receiver and safety, is one of the players agonizing over that decision.
“Very stressful, with everything that’s going on,” he said. “My heart is broken. It’s stress, and I don’t know what’s going on. I’ve been sweating. I can’t sleep at night. It’s crazy.”