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CHSAA decides against bringing football back for the fall, despite green light from Polis

Posted at 11:05 AM, Sep 09, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-09 23:16:25-04

DENVER — Colorado won't have high school football this fall, after all.

The Colorado High School Activities Association met Tuesday night to discuss a potential change in its plan to push football and several other fall sports to the spring, but the CHSAA board of directors voted against reversing course and decided it won't try to have a season this semester.

Gov. Jared Polis earlier Tuesday said the state gave high schools the green light to have a football season this fall, if districts were ready to do so safely.

“If their board moves forward and wants to propose a fall season for CHSAA football, we would be thrilled to work with them to make that happen for the districts that are ready to go," Polis said.

But administrators at the CHSAA board meeting expressed concerns about changing up plans last-minute, as well as balancing sports with the complicated process of having in-person classes amid COVID-19.

"We are focused on getting school started and running smoothly, as well as handling all the issues of running a school district and trying to have that be as normal as possible," Richard Hargrover, superintendent of Springfield Schools, said in a news release. "We do not want to travel. The biggest thing for me in the end is that we have continued to move the goalposts, and every time we turned around, we had something else we had to adjust to."

"We understand that our school communities would like to return to all levels of normalcy, said CHSAA Board President Troy Baker.

Baker noted that board members reached out to their respective districts before making their decision.

"The result of that action," he said, "gave clear direction to the board in support of the plan approved in August."

Still, many parents and students aren't happy with the decision.

"There's a lot of frustration, a lot of confusion. I think anger is a good word," said Denver Gazette sports columnist Paul Klee.

Klee told Denver7 he's heard from a number of parents who worry their children may not receive scholarship offers because football has been pushed back to spring.

"We can look around outside our state and see that Utah is already in Week 4 right now," he said.

Broomfield High School Athletic Director Steve Shelton was excited at the prospect of CHSAA moving up the start date. He learned Thursday that it wasn't to be.

"Are we disappointed for our kids and our families who really wanted to play football? Absolutely," Shelton said. "Do we also understand that this is a once in million, maybe a hundred year circumstance that we're dealing with, since the Spanish Flu? So, we have to honor that and we have to respect the fact that we have to make decisions that keep kids healthy and keep kids safe, and in the end, we've got to move forward and so that's what we'll do."

Tim Jenkins, who was drafted by the St. Louis Rams, and who later became a coach at Thunder Ridge High School, now runs Jenkins Elite, a football skills training company. His firm coaches quarterbacks, running backs, receivers, O-Line and D-Line players from Grade 2 to the NFL.

He said he'd like to see the decision made on the local level.

"We really need to give the option to these families. These families are going to sign waivers. This isn't the NCAA saying hey you can't sign a waiver," he said.

The private coach told Denver7, the decision almost seems political.

Klee wonders the same thing.

"I look at the landscape around the the country," he said, "and there are about 15 states that have decided they're not going to play fall football, and then you start to wonder if it was a political decision, because 13 of those states are run by democrat governors."

Jenkins said, "I would have love to see them (CHSAA board members) step up, and I don't know if it was the Governor's bluff, but say, hey, we're going to do it."

Girls volleyball, field hockey, gymnastics, boys soccer, spirit, and unified bowling are also among the sports being pushed from the fall to the spring. Cross country, boys golf, boys tennis and softball are still being played this fall, with a limited schedule.

"Our state has seen new golf, tennis, softball, and cross country teams formed statewide," Terita Walker, an assistant principal at Denver East High School, and a member of the CHSAA Board of Directors, said in a news release. "Once this plan was rolled out, school administrators and families began to reshape their lives around the calendar. We are moving forward knowing all of our students will have the chance to participate in 2021."

Polis in a statement Wednesday said he supported the CHSAA decision.

"Our administration was looking forward to allowing more student-athletes to begin their season this Fall, but if the CHSAA board unanimously agrees that they should delay their season until the Spring in an effort to ensure that they are better prepared to protect the safety of student-athletes then our administration fully respects that decision," Polis said. "The important thing is that every CHSAA sanctioned athletic team sport will occur this school year giving kids the opportunity to learn important skills by participating in team sports."