- Associated Press - Friday, October 3, 2014

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - Facing a backlash, the head of the Indianapolis Catholic Youth Organization said Thursday it would review its 75-year-old policy banning girls from playing football.

But any change likely won’t come in time for the girl behind the outcry.

Cece Lucia, an eighth-grader at St. Simon Middle School, 8155 Oaklandon Rd., dressed and played in the school’s football game Sunday - and went 2-for-2 kicking field goals.

After the game, the St. Simon coach got a call. Kick Lucia off the team or St. Simon would be forced to forfeit its games. A girl playing football is a violation of CYO policy.

The move prompted backlash inside and outside the Catholic community. Social media lit up in support of Cece. National news outlets, from FoxSports to the NBC affiliate in Chicago, reported the girl’s football ban.

A petition was started Thursday on petitionbuzz.com. Within hours of being posted, it had collected more than 200 signatures.

Most had a common theme: There’s no reason a girl should not be allowed to kick for a football team.

The Indiana High School Athletic Association allows girls to play on any boys team if there isn’t a comparable girls team, including football and wrestling.

“So where do we go from here?” said CYO’s executive director Ed Tinder on Thursday. “This policy will be high on our list with regards to review of policy. I know the environment has changed - even in two years.”

The policy was reviewed two years ago with no changes made. And it is unlikely the upcoming review would take place in time for Cece to get back on the field.

“We don’t want to have a knee-jerk reaction to this,” Tinder told The Indianapolis Star (http://indy.st/1pLCQH6 ).

The review will likely take place after the football season.

Any changes would be in place well before the 2015 season starts, he said.

Tinder said he was sorry for Cece, but said St. Simon “blatantly violated CYO” policy.

“Let me tell you something, and I mean this. I have great, great sympathy for the young girl,” Tinder said. “How neat is that for her to get out there and kick a couple points? That’s great. But this policy has been in effect for 75 years.”

Lucia’s father, John Peter, said Thursday “everybody has a different opinion on this.”

But he does know one thing.

“She just wanted to kick field goals,” he said. “And I wanted her to be able to do what she loves to do.”

Marianna Kassenbrock, an administrative staff member at St. Simon, said the school’s hands were tied.

“CYO is the one that set the rules,” she said. “It’s not our decision. If we want to participate, we have to follow the rules.”

While some public schools allow coed sports on typically male teams, Catholic schools and organizations have held strong on their stance to have gender-specific teams.

In Pennsylvania last month, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Harrisburg adopted a policy requiring boys on its school wrestling teams to forfeit matches against female opponents. The policy also bars girls from joining Catholic school tackle football and rugby teams.

The policy said that boys and girls competing together in sports that involve “substantial and potentially immodest physical contact” would conflict with the diocese’s religious mission.

The CYO is part of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, which said Thursday the CYO policy against girls playing sports typically played by boys is not because of some “contradiction with Catholic teaching.”

“The main thing that guides our policy is safety of the children who are playing,” said Greg Otolski, a spokesman for the Archdiocese of Indianapolis. “And just offering as much as we can to boys and girls both at our schools.”

___

Information from: The Indianapolis Star, http://www.indystar.com

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