AURORA -- Valor Christian's athletic programs will reside in the Jefferson County League for the 2014-16 cycle.
The school, which is independent of a league during the current two-year cycle, had requested to join the Centennial League. And though the Centennial previously denied Valor's request through a vote at a league meeting, there was still a chance that move would be approved at Tuesday's Classification and League Organizing Committee (CLOC) meeting.
However, at the meeting, CLOC voted to not approve Valor's move to the Centennial. Instead, through a 6-4 vote, it placed the Eagles in the Class 5A Jeffco League. Valor previously played in the 4A Jeffco from 2010-12. Their teams will continue to compete at the 4A level.
"That's our job: to put them in a league. They had to be in a league," CLOC chair Tom Arensdorf said after the meeting. "Every member has the right to be in a league after they've done their probationary period. They were not placed in a league two years ago ... because basically their membership was in jeopardy. We felt it was best at that time not to put them in a league. No one wanted them, but the reasons for not wanting them were based on past issues that were pretty valid.
"In this past two-year cycle, Valor has done a lot of things to correct those issues. And they deserve to be placed in a league. That's this committee's job, to get them in a league."
So Valor, finally, has a league for all of it's sports -- excepting football, which is still awaiting a conference. (That alignment will be finalized later in November.)
But that doesn't mean it was easy.
Valor athletic director Rod Sherman spoke briefly at the meeting about the reasons his school sought to join the Centennial. He also said, in part, "We believe now is the time for Valor's transition from an independent status to being a full-time member of a league. It would be an honor for us to be a member of the Centennial League; there's much we can learn. We believe we have respected the process of being placed and we humbly request placement in the Centennial League."
A long discussion ensued, with Centennial and Jeffco reps also speaking, and emphasizing Valor Christian's private status. Then, CHSAA commissioner Paul Angelico spoke up.
"We've had a public-private school discussion going on for over two years now," Angelico said. "I'm afraid I'm to blame for that because I wanted that to be an open and above-board discussion, rather than all the back-biting that was going on behind the scenes. If I would have known that it would have turned into this bickering that will never end, I think I would have stopped it ... and not allowed it to start. There's no end to this.
"A couple of points I need to make: There is no written or unwritten policy of any sort regarding public and private schools and league placement," Angelico continued. "Secondly, in the last 24 months, I would say to you, that since that discussion started, it's not the private schools I'm worried about. ... The private school people have heard loudly your message of discontent. Their response has been one of that I can't complain about. Whatever it takes to be above-board and avoid issues, they're doing. That applies to Valor doubly. They've hired a consultant, they've done everything I've asked. To the point that last night, in our discussions, we talked about, 'Well Valor had four ADs show up at the (All-School) Summit.' I said, 'Yeah, they did. I told them to, and they did what they were told.'
"I think we have our priorities goofed up and have kind of started turning around what we're supposed to be about," he added. "This isn't a public/private school issue. I hear loudly that it's an issue about unfair advantage or differences in schools. ... Frankly, I would just like to get this conversation back to what it's about: somebody needs a home. The fact that they're a public or private school is not the reason you place them in a conference. Nor has it ever been. Let's talk about what's the best fit.
"The association has certainly survived with several public and private schools together in the same league. I just want to center this. This becomes a 'Who can win the argument?' not, 'What's the best thing?' And I think we need to go back to what are we supposed to be doing here. The committee is charged with placing a school, and they will place a school, and they'll have to do it to somebody's chagrin."
Shortly after, the committee broke into a private session, and then for lunch. When they came back, the vote on Valor request to join the Centennial League was quickly called. Three CLOC members abstained, three voted in favor of the request, and seven against.
Moments later, committee member Rich Wildenhaus from Erie proposed moving Valor to the 5A Jeffco League. There was no discussion from the audience, and the vote ended with six agreeing with the move, four against it and three abstaining. The entire process was swift.
"Honestly, that surprised me," Arensdorf said afterward. "Over the last two days, we probably discussed this issue as a committee for three-and-a-half hours -- because whatever decision was made by the committee was going to be unpopular with some schools and cause some angst within leagues. There is no perfect fit.
"We went through a process that, if the first request did not pass, we -- as a committee, it's our responsibility to come up with something before the end of the day. And different committee members had different proposals," he continued. "I was surprised that we finished that quickly. And I was surprised there was no feedback from the floor when that proposal was made by Richie Wildenhaus. I didn't know what to expect at that point, because, as a committee, no one felt comfortable with any solution. There were no solutions that were going to make everybody happy.
"But, in the end, it is what it is, and all these people are professionals and they'll deal with what they have to deal with and hopefully make the best situation for all the kids that participate in those programs."
Valor Christian did approach Jeffco about joining the league prior to the CLOC meeting. Jeffco has 5A and 4A leagues.
"Right now, the CLOC committee voted for them to be in 5A Jeffco. I think that discussion still needs to happen," Jim Thyfault, Jefferson County's district athletic director, and a member of CLOC, said after the meeting. "Since we do have a 4A option, I think that needs to be discussed.
"I respect Rod Sherman and the people at Valor, I really do. They were in our league before. And, you know what? We'll all be very professional about it, and I'm sure they will be, too."
CLOC's actions on Tuesday still need to be confirmed by the Legislative Council in January.
More league changes
Earlier, Burlington's request to join the Lower Platte League was denied. That league had previously voted 9-0 against allowing Burlington admittance. CLOC voted 11-2 against overruling that vote. So Burlington will stay in the Union Pacific League.
Approved league changes:
- Broomfield (Northern to Front Range)
- Canon City (South Central to Colorado Springs Metro)
- The Classical Academy (Tri-Peaks to Colorado Springs Metro)
- Clear Creek (3A Frontier to 2A Frontier)
- Ellicott (Tri-Peaks to Black Forest)
- Highland (Patriot to Mile High)
- Holy Family (Metro to Tri-Valley)
- Littleton (Continental to Jeffco)
- Lyons (Patriot to Mile High)
- Manzanola (Southeastern to High Plains)
- Northridge (Tri-Valley to Northern)
- Skyview Academy (Independent to Metro 3A)
- Swallows Charter Academy (Independent to Santa Fe)
- Twin Peaks Charter (New school, joining Mile High)
- Vanguard (Black Forest to Tri-Peaks)
Vail Ski & Snowboard Academy's request for membership was denied. The school has a unique schedule to allow its students to train on the mountain during the week -- training from 8 a.m. to noon, and then attending classes from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. each Tuesday through Friday during the winter.
However, after a lengthy discussion, the committee said they were uneasy going down the road of adding a sports academy as a member.
"It seems so fundamentally different than what our membership is now," said committee member Mark Kanagy, Windsor's athletic director.
The committee did approve membership for Caprock Charter Academy in Grand Junction, as well as Denver School of Science & Technology - Green Valley Ranch, and Venture Preparatory School in Denver.
The overwhelming majority of playdowns were approved, save for Abraham Lincoln football (5A to 4A), Estes Park football (2A to 1A) and Palmer football (5A to 4A). Approved playdowns:
- Adams City football (5A to 4A)
- Alameda football (5A to 4A)
- Antonito football (8-man to 6-man)
- Aurora Central football (5A to 4A)
- Boulder softball (5A to 4A)
- Centaurus volleyball (4A to 3A)
- Central (Grand Junction) football (4A to 3A)
- Civa Charter boys/girls basketbal, volleyball (2A to 1A)
- Denver North football (3A to 2A)
- Dolores Huerta girls basketball (3A to 2A)
- Greeley Central softball (4A to 3A)
- Greeley West boys soccer (5A to 4A)
- Miami-Yoder football (8-man to 6-man)
- Mitchell football (4A to 3A)
- Montbello girls soccer (5A to 4A)
- Montezuma-Cortez soccer (4A to 3A)
- Montezuma-Cortez football (3A to 2A)
- Nederland football (1A to 8-man)
- Niwot football (4A to 3A)
- Rifle boys/girls soccer (4A to 3A)
- Roosevelt boys soccer (4A to 3A)
- Skyline softball (4A to 3A)
- South Park football (8-man to 6-man)
The committee set the 1A/2A cutoff at 92 students. So schools with 92 and below will be 1A in basketball and all other sports, while those with 93-240 students will be 2A.