Gov. Jared Polis authorizes high school football in the fall with return to play decisions looming for CHSAA

High school football in Colorado is another step closer to being played in the fall.

Gov. Jared Polis announced on Wednesday that the state has conditionally approved revised guidelines that would allow for outdoor prep sports such as football, field hockey, cheer and dance to start in autumn after the Colorado High School Activities Association had initially postponed play until spring.

The reversal comes after CHSAA resubmitted “modified safety implementation plans and variance requests” to the state that raised limits on the number of participants. Specifically, it allows groups of up to 50 players (excluding coaches/officials/staff) per roster on a field at one time. Schools will still have the option to play football in the spring.

“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,” Polis said in a news release. “If the CHSAA board decides to add these sports to their fall calendars, it will be up to local school districts, administrators and parents to choose what is right for their communities. 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 did not immediately respond Wednesday evening to a request for comment. However, there is a clear discord between local communities over the decision of when to play high school football — with the back-and-forth process frustrating many prominent coaches.

Declining coronavirus cases in the state (plus significant lobbying efforts from schools, parents and players) led Polis to reconsider a fall prep sports season. But Denver Public Schools announced in a news release that it prefers CHSAA’s initial decision to start football practices in February and games in March.

“We feel the decision to move forward with CHSAA sports as scheduled, after the winter break, gives us the best and safest opportunity for our students to have an opportunity to participate this school year,” DPS said in a statement. “Currently in Denver, we are under guidance from our local health departments that limit cohort size and adult interaction with cohorts. This guidance alone would make it impossible to offer the same programming allowed in neighboring communities. It could also limit participation opportunities for our students. Additionally, the lack of a solid and cohesive plan from CHSAA that outlines the expectations and requirements for the rollout of football makes it very difficult to make additional commitments at this time. This is because we are unable to assess whether participation would be feasible, what conditions would be required and any implications given our local health context.”

This story will be updated.