Rifle HS videographer on foes’ sideline during 3 playoff games
RIFLE — A volunteer videographer affiliated with Rifle High School’s football team was on the opposition sideline for three of the Bears’ state playoff football games last fall, officials with the Colorado High School Activities Association told the Post Independent on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, a Fort Morgan official told the PI that he asked a Rifle videographer five times to leave his football team’s coach’s box during the Class 3A semifinal matchup on Nov 22.
CHSAA assistant commissioner Harry Waterman confirmed in a telephone interview that he had heard of a volunteer videographer from Rifle being inside of the coach’s box of the Bears’ Class 3A state playoff opponents during the first two rounds — before the Fort Morgan game — but declined to say who told him about that. He did, however, say that those incidents played a part in the decision made by CHSAA to put Rifle High School’s football program on restriction for the 2015 season.
“At that point, we communicate with both schools to find out everything that transpired,” said Waterman, who serves as CHSAA’s ambassador for football. “Then we use that information to render a decision on how to move forward.”
That decision resulted in Rifle, the four-time Class 3A Western Slope League champion, being banned from the 2015 postseason — at least until Rifle shows CHSAA it has made and is executing a plan to prevent a similar rules infraction from occurring.
The imposed restriction stemmed from a local media member stepping into the coach’s box and taking footage of a game, according to a press release issued by Rifle High School. Ryan Mackley, a co-owner of Align Multimedia in Rifle, confirmed that the volunteer videographer at Rifle’s home 3A semifinal playoff game against Fort Morgan was on his staff. Rifle principal Todd Ellis said Monday that the videographer, whom Mackley declined to name, was there for only a few plays.
“I didn’t make it clear to him where he was supposed to be,” said Mackley, who is also a volunteer assistant coach for the Rifle football team. “That’s on me.”
LACK OF CLARITY?
The boundary is a rule that CHSAA assistant commissioner Bert Borgmann said he brought with him from the NCAA after stints working in the sports information departments at the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley and Colorado State University in Fort Collins close to 30 years ago. Those were defined at CHSAA’s Dec. 9 meeting following the game between Fort Morgan and Rifle, which Rifle won 35-7 at Bears Stadium. It, according to a post on http://www.CHSAAnow.com, stated that only the personnel of a particular team can be in the team’s coaching box and that “others on the sideline will be allowed from the 20-yard-lines and toward the goal-lines.”
Mackley reiterated that it was his responsibility to tell his crew members where they should have been, but on Monday said that in November, they were not aware of any boundary.
Echoing that by telephone on Tuesday morning was Fort Morgan athletic director Kyle Bules, who said he got upset at the videographer being in the Fort Morgan coach’s box for a different reason. He said he noticed the videographer standing in close proximity to Mustangs head coach Harrison Chisum for much of the game, noting that Chisum calls plays orally.
“Partway through the third quarter, I noticed that the man [with a video camera] had an earpiece in and asked him to leave. He refused to leave,” Bules said. “After the fifth request, our exchanges became heated, and he finally did leave.”
Bules also said he noticed the man had been talking while filming.
“When I got to him [after he’d left the coach’s box], I asked him, ‘Who are you talking to?’” Bules continued. “He said, ‘The defensive coordinator.’ I don’t know if he was being smart with me or what.”
Bules added that he wouldn’t have acted the way he did had the videographer left upon the first request.
Mackley said the camera the videographer used was a Canon XA25 video camera, adding that the equipment he was using was not capable of communicating with other people and that the videographer was “not talking to the defensive coordinator.”
‘WE NEVER ACCUSED RIFLE’
Mackley also said the videographer was not available for comment. Align Multimedia is not directly affiliated with Rifle High School and Garfield School District Re-2.
Fort Morgan provided photos of the incidents in question to the Post Independent, plus a photo of the man with whom they say Bules had words. Some of the photos, which also were provided to CHSAA, show the videographer in close proximity to Chisum. They also show, however, a line at the 25-yard line signifying the coach’s box, and the videographer was outside of that in some of the photos.
Ben Bauman, Fort Morgan High School’s principal who sat in on the telephone interview with the PI, added that “we never accused Rifle. We never came out and said they cheated.”
To which Bules said: “We did not lose that game as a result of the videographer being there.” He then stated that “we were never seeking for Rifle to go onto restriction. We were only seeking change.”
Rifle High is already planning change. When reached by phone late Monday night, Rifle High athletic director Troy Phillips said the school has put a plan into place to ensure such an incident never happens again. He said the school plans to put boundaries up to prohibit movement to particular areas, adding that media members will have to sign a waiver upon entering Bears Stadium that shows they know where they’re allowed to be.
Meanwhile, Rifle principal Todd Ellis, when asked about accusations that a videographer was also in an opponent’s coach’s box in Rifle’s playoff games against Northridge on Nov. 8 (a 61-13 Rifle win) and at Roosevelt on Nov. 15 (a 15-0 Rifle win), refused comment.
“I’m going to do what’s best for the kids,” Ellis said.
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