The Colorado High School Activities Association voted unanimously to uphold its decision to move most fall sports to the spring. Colorado players, parents and coaches are not backing away from the fight, and some may be taking it to court.
Wednesday’s announcement was followed by a barrage of parent, athlete and coach complaints on social media with CHSAA’s transparency being the main focus after Gov. Jared Polis made a statement that he “was looking forward to allowing more student-athletes to begin their season this fall.”
Now appearing to have the governor in their corner, athletes plan to continue advocating for a fall season, with three protests scheduled in Colorado Springs, Delta and Highlands Ranch/Denver on Friday.
Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer set a precedent last week, issuing an executive order that allowed organized sports to resume and giving the green light for high school football, volleyball, boys' soccer and girls’ swimming and diving to compete this fall. The Michigan High School Athletic Association then voted to reinstate fall sports based on the provisions outlined in the executive order.
Some hope Polis will do the same. But if no action is taken, Colorado athletes are providing information to join a lawsuit against Polis and CHSAA, alleging the state organizations committed “tortious interference with business opportunities" by infringing on athlete’s rights to obtain a college scholarship.
“Any kid who is seeking a college scholarship and is prevented from doing that has a claim,” said Helen McAllister, organizer of the LetCOPlay campaign in Colorado Springs. “The suit would include all sports and all genders for athletes grades 9-12.”
A “prominent lawyer” has agreed to explore legal action on behalf of Colorado athletes pro bono, but has requested to remain anonymous for the time being. He told The Gazette on Thursday night that a lawsuit wasn't possible a month ago, but when Polis announced his approval, "it's go time."
“With the governor shutting sports down, CHSAA had no chance. It wasn’t possible because it was state law,” he said. “That was the easy way out. But once the governor said he would relax the rules and encouraged it, at that point it’s go time.”
The LetCOPlay campaign has collected more than 30 testimonies and plaintiffs, and within minutes of posting a request for testimony more began flooding in. The campaign hopes to collect 100 plaintiff submissions.
CHSAA board, Gov. Polis provide conflicting accounts
Various reports circulated on social media Wednesday afternoon as CHSAA board members claimed Polis would allegedly limit rosters to 12.5 players per team, in addition to variance on ticket sales and attendance, though exact details on those limitations were not immediately clear.
Wednesday evening Polis provided context on some of the rumored variances presented to the state association.
“I encouraged them to add fall football season, of course (with) variance for up to 50 players on each team on sidelines (and) everything else necessary for safe play, same conditions as spring football. While I’m disappointed (with) the decision, every CHSAA sport will have a season this school (year),” Polis tweeted around 11 p.m.
Denver radio announcer Dave Logan hosted Ryan West, CHSAA board member and Englewood High School principal, on his Logan and Lewis podcast Thursday to gain more clarity on the board’s decision.
West said the board was under the impression that the governor had not increased the variance from 12.5 players to 50 on a sideline.
“The information we had on Tuesday night was that (the variance) was still 25 players total,” West said in the podcast. “And the number of student athletes on the field at one time was still going to be prohibitive for 11-man football.”
West added, however, that the board’s decision went beyond roster size. Much of his argument surrounded an "equitable field" for all teams across the state.
“Since the initial decision on Aug. 4, there are many football athletes that chose to join another sport, get a job or move on. They’ve been completely away from football training for a month,” West said. “Trying to rush a system where we are going to throw them out on a field for nine practices and go out for a full contact game, there were some questions brought up. Is this the safest for our kids?”
West argued that following the Aug. 4 announcement, "most people moved on,” and “some continued to practice football, but not everybody.”
In Polis’ press conference Tuesday he suggested schools not ready to begin competition right away could choose to play in the proposed Season C, which begins in February, if they choose to do so.
“That’s ridiculous,” West said. “We can’t have a split season. (As a board) we had to come together as a group and (vote on the) best scenario for every kid and every football player in the state of Colorado to have an equitable chance to play and play under the same set of rules is to do it in the springtime. It may not be popular but that's what drove our decision.”