In a late executive session following a response from Gov. Jared Polis and the state, the Colorado High School Activities Association board of directors voted to allow schools the option to compete in football, field hockey, spirit and dance in either the fall or spring.
The sports may begin "later this month" according to a tweet from CHSAA media director Ryan Casey. The vote was announced on Twitter at 9:57 p.m.
The vote was 12-3 in favor of moving forward with the new season structure just a week after the board voted unanimously to uphold the previously approved four-season structure that moved football and most other fall sports to the spring.
Additional details regarding season structure should be made available in the coming days, according to Casey.
An announcement posted to CHSAANow.com at 10:30 p.m. stated the roster size variances approved by the governor’s office was a "major factor" in the board’s decision. According to commissioner Rhonda Blanford-Green, the board was under the impression that the governor’s office would only approve 12.5 players per sideline for football when they voted last week.
The state announced Wednesday that field hockey was approved to include 25 players per roster, or a total of 50 players on or around any field of play. Football was approved to have 50 players per roster, or 100 on or around field of play. Twenty-eight participants per roster were approved for cheer and dance.
The @CHSAA Board of Directors has voted to allow schools the opportunity to choose to play fall seasons for football, field hockey and sideline spirit, beginning later this month. Schools will have the opportunity to play in Season A or Season C. #copreps— Ryan Casey (@jryancasey) September 17, 2020
Hours earlier the governor’s office approved CHSAA’s request to make more outdoor sports available this fall
The announcement follows a back-and-forth battle between CHSAA and Polis’ office, and the state placed the fate of some fall sports back in CHSAA’s hands.
CHSAA received guidelines of the variance from the COVID-19 Response Team. We are working with the Governor's office to address specific language so as to not have to further reduce a modified season schedule. #copreps— CHSAA (@CHSAA) September 17, 2020
“We have worked closely with CHSAA to approve their request, issue guidelines and assist in creating a process that supports a return to football, field hockey and cheer,” said Polis. “The state has approved these requests in order to empower all schools to make the choice that is right for them and their student-athletes.”
CHSAA submitted requests for the allowance of football, field hockey, cheer/dance, volleyball and gymnastics, but the governor's office denied requests for sports conducted indoors.
"At this time, we are fast tracking and responding to your requests for outdoor events and not requests for sports that are conducted indoors," wrote Ann Hause, director of the Office of Legal and Regulatory Compliance, in a letter to Blanford-Green. "We welcome an ongoing conversation to review any indoor requests at a future date as more schools safely open their indoor facilities for students."
Blanford-Green's request advocated for increased spectators, participants and to be exempt from the mask order for volleyball and gymnastics, but was ultimately denied.
Scroll to the bottom of the story to see the state's response letter to Blanford-Green.
According to the release, if the new season structure is approved by CHSAA, schools may choose to compete in either season A or C should the community not feel it is safe to play this fall. Season A is the first of the temporary four sports seasons, with C running March through early May.
Approval may be rescinded in communities that fall out of compliance and enter Level 3 of the Safer at Home Public Health Order, according to the release. Currently, every county in the state is in Level 1 or 2.
In August, CHSAA approved a seven-game regular season and an eight-team football state bracket for football. Field hockey's regular season is limited to 10 games maximum with a four-team playoff bracket. The previous season structure allowed three days of practice before the first field hockey contest, and 10 days between football's first practice date and first contest.
It is unclear if CHSAA will alter these plans further, but it is likely that should the sports be approved to start in Season A, they will need to extend into CHSAA's sports moratorium from Oct. 17-Jan. 3.
According to the release, the state will require all schools participating in Season A to obey the following guidelines in addition to those outlined by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Safety:
- All participants, including athletes, coaches, match officials, staff, and others, must wear masks while not actively playing or performing.
- All participants, including athletes, coaches, match officials, staff, and others, must be six feet apart from non-household members on the sidelines or while not in active play.
- All participants, including athletes, coaches, match officials, staff, and others, must stay in their designated areas off the field of play, and may not go into spectator areas.
- All participants, including athletes, coaches, match officials, staff, and others must wear masks and observe social distancing during transportation.
- Roster limitations established by CHSAA must not be exceeded.
- Cheer/dance participants must follow the requirements laid out in other guidelines for performers and be at least 25 feet away from spectators and players at all times.
While the statement did not specifically mention spectator and capacity limits, the release referenced the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment's guidance for organized sports document, which went into effect Wednesday.
Guidance for outdoor events limits capacity based on the venue's usable square footage with a maximum of 175 people per activity. Activities in which guests have reserve seating and/or remain seated for the duration of the event will limit guests based on the state's COVID-19 dial dashboard. El Paso County falls in the dashboard's "Safer Level 1," limiting "personal recreation" capacity to 250 people outdoors.
Activity participants are not included in the venue capacity limit as long as they do not join the spectator areas and remain at least 25 feet from attendees.
The document also notes event hosts ensure a minimum of six feet of social distance between attendees or parties, and recommends hosts collect information for guests and attendees through ticket sales, reservations, RSVPs or sign-in sheets.