The Colorado High School Activities Association has changed its mind, again. Hours after stating only essential team personnel would be permitted to attend this week’s high school basketball state tournament games, CHSAA now says it will allow four family members or guests of each player to attend the games.
After Gov. Jared Polis’ press conference Wednesday afternoon, the CHSAA commissioners met to discuss postseason tournaments to be held starting Thursday across the Front Range.
Following the lead of the NCAA, which announced Wednesday it will play NCAA basketball tournament games in front of no fans, CHSAA announced Wednesday night that the state tournament basketball games would be closed to fans. Hours after the news broke, CHSAA changed its mind and said it would allow each player competing in the state tournament to have four family members or guests allowed entry into the game. CHSAA also will not charge those guests a ticket fee.
Games will continue as scheduled with coaches, players and essential team personnel along with the limited guests allowed into each arena. Media members will be allowed in the games.
“Essential personnel means only those who have been submitted on the official CHSAA gate list by schools will be able to enter the venue,” the statement read on CHSAANow.com. “No spirit teams or bands will be permitted entry. Media will be permitted to attend if they have a CHSAA-issued pass.”
That is big news for the community of Ignacio, as both the IHS boys and girls teams are scheduled to play in Class 2A quarterfinal games Thursday night at the Budweiser Events Center in Loveland.
“It’s horrible,” said IHS boys head coach Chris Valdez after he initially heard no fans would be allowed into the games. “This is not the way the game is played. It’s disappointing to us. We still gotta come up here and do a job. Without the support of the fans that get them excited to play, it’s tough. But it’s not just us, it’s everybody. It’s unfortunate, but I know they made the decision for the betterment of everybody. Is it the right one, who knows? You gotta deal with it and do what they asked.”
Valdez said the team canceled plans to go to the movies Wednesday night. When news broke, parents immediately called the players. Valdez said it will be a tough night to get through with his team on the eve of the state quarterfinals.
“By the time we play, we gotta be focused on what we gotta do,” Valdez said. “We were getting ready to go see a basketball movie, get hyped up and be ready to go. We wanted to stay out late so we can sleep in late since we play late. Nobody wants to go to the movie now with parents calling upset. But it’s every team in Colorado. We will get them through tonight and get focused tomorrow. Hey, we gotta play this game.”
The CHSAA statement indicated one host arena said it would not be able to host games with fans in attendance for the entire tournament. Still, because of backlash after CHSAA’s initial statement, the governing body of high school sports in Colorado backtracked and made a compromise.
“In negotiations tonight for a compromise on family/guest for each player. We can allow each player to have a maximum of four family/guest to attend their game,” CHSAA commissioner Rhonda Blanford-Green said in a post to Twitter. “CHSAA will waive ticket cost.”
The news came as the NBA had announced it would suspend the current season after Utah Jazz player Rudy Gobert was confirmed to have COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.
CHSAA’s priority was making sure games would be completed in the interest of the student-athletes.
“While this decision is a difficult one, we do want the students who have worked so hard to be able to have a culminating event that reflects the commitment they have made throughout the season,” Blanford-Green said in the initial news release. “We knew that this was an evolving situation, and our goal was to have a tournament that goes on without interruption. But circumstances have changed with this pandemic, and the focus must now be on how we give the kids the experience of a state champ event.”
CHSAA said a refund policy for those who had purchased tickets in advance will be laid out Thursday. It is a fluid situation, and further changes to the state tournament could come.
CHSAA urges those who cannot attend the games but would like to watch to stream the state tournaments on the NFHS Network. A 30-day subscription costs $10.99 and can be canceled after one month.