Has the Dolores School District opted out of the Colorado High School Activities Association?
That question was largely unanswered during a sometimes heated and confusing public discussion at Dolores School District RE-4A’s board meeting on April 12.
But in a telephone interview with The Journal on April 13, Bert Borgmann, assistant commissioner at CHSAA, explained that the district is still a member of CHSAA, the governing body for high school athletics in Colorado. According to Borgmann, only the football program has been classified under an “independent status.”
That request, he said, was made last fall by Athletic Director Chris Trusler. On Thursday night, the board unanimously accepted Trusler’s resignation, and assistant athletic director Kaari Milligin volunteered to head up a committee of seven to nine people to manage Dolores athletics.
“You are not playing for the conference or in any playoffs,” Borgmann said. “The school made the request to play an independent schedule.”
Independent status is governed by a binding two-year contract, Borgmann said. Under the contract, the district is in charge of its own schedule, and the football team cannot play in postseason tournaments.
The Dolores football program is still a member of CHSAA and is bound by its safety regulations, he said. He added that CHSAA has not received complaints of injuries from the Dolores district.
“(Superintendent Scott Cooper) called this morning and said that there is a rumor going around,” Borgmann said. “He contacted our office to reaffirm that they are a member. What is changing is they will not be a member of a football conference. It was a decision that was made by the athletic director to be placed as a varsity independent team.”
Borgmann said that it is not uncommon for schools to adopt independent status during rebuilding years, as in Dolores, where fewer than 20 players were expected to participate next season.
At Thursday’s board meeting, the CHSAA discussion included a suggestion that the high school drop to eight-man football, versus its current 11-player squad.
“I personally would like to see us go to eight-man football,” said assistant football coach Dillon Ferguson, standing to speak. “Reason being, if you’ve ever played or been involved, it is still football.”
No consensus was reached.
Resident Jerry Whited raised the question of who was involved in the high school’s decision to change its status with CHSAA. He said he met with Trusler and Cooper in December about the decision that led to the independent status request. He then asked each board member, and all denied knowing about the decision.
“This was all done because the superintendent took it upon himself to advise the AD without board consent,” Whited said to cheers and applause.
Assistant football coach Ferguson also said he was not informed of the decision.
Cooper said he didn’t remember making the decision, but said he would check with his athletic director (Trusler). Astonished members of the crowd responded with jeers and exclamations of “Wow!” Trusler’s resignation would be approved less than an hour later.
Before meeting with the board, Cooper said Thursday that he would check on the district’s status with CHSAA.
“I have heard loud and clear from my bosses here (the school board) that I need to call CHSAA tomorrow and tell them we do not want to opt out of CHSAA,” he said.
In a letter to parents dated Monday, April 16, Cooper said that the football team’s independent status would mean that players would play more games at home and would “miss less school.”
He added that athletics committee planned to have recommendations on hiring a new athletic director and football coach for the school board to approve at its next meeting, on May 10, and a meet-and-greet for the new hires the following week.