San Francisco parents have forced the forfeit of a high school football game over safety concerns in Richmond.
Seven Galileo football players have been pulled out of the Friday game by their parents — much to the disappointment of Richmond’s head coach, Bryan Fisher.
Low roster numbers and safety concerns are realities that high school football coaches regularly have to address in today’s world. Teams with already thin rosters have struggled to field enough players to take the field less than a month into the 2022 season.
Such a situation hit Richmond last week, when the Oilers didn’t have enough healthy linemen to face Concord and had no choice but to forfeit, falling to 0-3 on the season.
A week later, the Oilers have been granted a forfeit win by way of low roster numbers, but through an unusual set of circumstances.
Galileo head coach Nick Naudain informed Richmond that he wouldn’t have enough healthy and eligible players for Friday’s non-league contest after seven of his team’s parents forbid their children from traveling to the East Bay for the 7 p.m. game.
“I wanted to play the game, but I’m not in the business of alienating our parents,” Naudain said.
Galileo will finish non-league play winless after Friday’s forfeit. Entering this week, Naudain knew of just one player who wasn’t going to make the trip.
“His parents didn’t let him go to the Terra Linda game [in San Rafael], either. They didn’t want him out at night,” Naudain said.
A second parent voiced concerns on Monday. By Wednesday, that number had mounted to seven, leaving the Lions short of the minimum 18 players needed for the game.
“I spoke with their principal and he explained that recent incidents had been at other schools in their district, but that didn’t convince our parents,” Naudain said.
The Standard has reached out to parents who have pulled their children out of the game via the school’s coach.
A shooting at Richmond stopped the Oilers’ homecoming game in 2012, but no incidents have taken place at RHS football games since then.
Games at other schools in the West Contra Costa Unified School District (WCCUSD) have been afflicted by violence in recent years. In 2015, neighboring Kennedy was hosting Lincoln in a game that was called after shots were fired near the campus, and in 2019, a shooting outside of a game between De Anza and Pinole Valley left three teenagers injured. In response, the WCCUSD moved kickoff times from 7 p.m. to 5 p.m. for the remainder of the 2019 season.
“People have this perception of us because of other schools in the district,” Richmond head coach Fisher said. “We haven’t had those problems. Our problem at Richmond is that we don’t have enough kids that want to play football.”
‘We Don’t Consider This a Victory’
Those low numbers cost the Oilers their Week 4 trip to Concord. They now have a win on their ledger, but a hollow one at that.
“We don’t consider this a victory,” Fisher said. “We’re looking forward to earning our first win.”
Richmond was on an 18-game losing streak, including two losses by forfeit. Galileo’s forfeit marks Fisher’s first win as a varsity head coach, but it leaves a foul taste in his mouth.
“They had a concern for potential community violence, specifically shootings and explosions,” Fisher said. “In my opinion, this is completely unwarranted. We have one of the safest campuses in our county. I bring my children to practice regularly and allow them to interact with the students and community with no hesitation. I don’t bring my kids to San Francisco, and I never will unless things drastically change.”
Fisher did go on to explain that some of the concerns surrounding Richmond were warranted, though many were overblown through media, such as the movie Coach Carter.
“We’re not trying to remove bias. We’re trying to fix our community,” Fisher added. “Some of that bias is warranted with past events. Our community isn’t perfect, but it’s ours and we love it.”
Richmond has hosted other San Francisco schools in prior years without incident. Lowell made the trek in 2016, and both Burton and Washington visited for non-league games in 2017 and again in 2018.
Ethan Kassel can be reached at [email protected]