Summit High School sports considers return to fall football after state gives green light

Western Slope Conference teams met Thursday to work toward a decision

Jackson Segal flashes a smile as the rain begins to fall during the first quarter of a Summit High School varsity football game against Moffat County on Sept. 6, 2019, at Climax Molybdenum Stadium in Breckenridge.
Photo from Summit Daily archive

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to add details from Thursday’s Summit County Board of Health meeting.

FRISCO — Summit School District officials on Thursday worked toward a decision on when the Summit High School football program will play this school year — either returning to a fall season or sticking with a seven-game spring schedule.

The dilemma comes after the state’s high school sports governing body — the Colorado High School Activities Association — voted Wednesday, Sept. 16, to allow individual districts to decide when they’d like to play. The association’s board of directors voted 12-3 to approve variances from Gov. Jared Polis’ COVID-19 response team, which give district’s the option to play field hockey, football and sideline spirit during CHSAA’s fall season under guidelines set by the state’s Department of Public Health and Environment.

Last month, CHSAA announced a four-season plan that moved what the association deemed higher-COVID-risk sports — such as boys soccer, girls volleyball and football — to a spring season from March to May. Teams will not be allowed to play in both seasons.

CHSAA’s announcement comes amid a dizzying September for the state’s high school football programs. Polis and CHSAA instilled hope early last week when they shared the two entities were open to working together to bring football and other fall sports back.

On Sept. 9, the CHSAA board voted to keep the four-season calendar unchanged. Then on Sept. 11, CHSAA said it was resubmitting proposals for football and other sports to the governor’s office, and Polis said there might be a window open for a fall season.

In CHSAA’s statement this week, board President Troy Baker, the athletic director at Buena Vista High School, described the situation as “not normal times.”

“With the hope of trying to find some normalcy … there isn’t a guide of how to do this,” he added.

Though CHSAA’s latest decision empowers districts and schools to come to the best decisions for their student-athletes, the timing does leave districts in a potential scheduling predicament. In a traditional year, the sport already would be four weekends into a 10-game football season. Last year, the Tigers varsity season concluded Nov. 7.

Speaking via text message Thursday morning, Summit High School Director of Athletics Travis Avery said it was too early for the district to comment on a decision for football. He cited needing further information from CHSAA.

In CHSAA’s Wednesday statement, the association said the approved variances allow for 50 players per sideline to be on the field during a football game. Further, the approved regulations stipulate all event participants must wear masks while not actively playing and must be 6 feet apart from nonhousehold members on the sidelines. CHSAA added that requested variances for other traditionally fall sports — which at Summit includes boys soccer and girls volleyball — remain under consideration by the state.

Avery said he’d meet Thursday afternoon with fellow members and officials of Summit’s football conference, the 3A Western Slope League. He said that meeting’s discussion will impact Summit’s decision.

Summit varsity football head coach James Wagner on Thursday said he would wait to comment until after the district makes its decision. Last week, Wagner said he personally felt Colorado high school fall football should be happening but with the right precautionary measures.

At Thursday’s Summit County Board of Health meeting, Public Health Director Amy Wineland said county officials will be meeting with the school district in the coming days about the football season decision.

As of Thursday afternoon, compiled a list of 39 schools that indicated they intend to play this fall, including no Western Slope Conference schools. The website also included a list of seven districts committed to the spring, including Denver Public School District.

Libby Stanford contributed to the reporting of this story.

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