AURORA -- Competitive balance in sports won a near-unanimous decision at the Colorado High School Activities Association’s final legislative council meeting of the year Thursday.
The council defined geographic borders for private schools and added a fourth classification (2A) for girls’ soccer, both decidedly in favor of leveling the playing field.
Also, specific wording for criteria used for state soccer seeding and other mostly minor tweaks to ensure fair and representative postseasons all passed with little or no discussion (with the exception of basketball, which opted for the status quo in determining the 4A playoff field).
An attempt to bring academically ineligible players back two weeks earlier – in time for the postseason in some cases – was also refused.
But it wasn’t a clean sweep for pure competition.
The council shot down three attempts to define and restrict contact between high school coaches and eighth-graders in a feeder middle school, a vote that could keep recruiting loopholes open.
One amendment would have permitted contact between coaches and eighth-graders in their feeder system only after May 1. Another added further definitions and restrictions to the coach-student communication described in the first amendment and added that high school students would be barred from contact with the middle schoolers in question. A third amendment would have forbidden a high school coach from attending a middle school contest for a school outside the feeder system unless notification was given to the high schools the middle schools teams feed.
Palmer athletic director Robert Framel, one of the 69 voting members in attendance Thursday, expressed concern over the ambiguity of the wording of the amendments and the complications in play when high school coaches are also club coaches.
He also didn’t agree with the May 1 date, which could overlap with the end of a middle school sports season and put an athlete in the position to abandon his or her team to avoid losing standing with the high school program.
“We want eighth-graders to be able to be eighth-graders,” Framel said.
An issue not raised was the logistical nightmare of enforcing the rules of contact. If a billion dollar industry like the NCAA struggles to do so, what chance do high schools and CHSAA stand?
One Colorado Springs athletic director expressed confusion as to why the amendments failed, noting that specifying certain dates and criteria for communication between coaches and incoming athletes was needed.
Overall, the day overwhelmingly went to the forces of fairness.
Private schools now have the same geographic definitions as the public schools in their district. This will give CHSAA commissioner Paul Angelico strict guidelines when ruling on the eligibility of transfers.
The addition of a girls’ soccer classification was a pre-emptive move toward maintaining gender equity where postseason opportunities are concerned.
“This association has always moved in the right direction to make sure that we provide opportunities for the under-represented gender,” outgoing associate CHSAA commissioner Rhonda Blanford-Green said.
The new soccer classification could open the door for small public schools that haven’t been competitive in 3A in recent years. Since 2007, 11 programs have reached the 3A semifinals. Of those, only Manitou Springs and Basalt were not private or charter schools.