Mailbag: On esports, football alignment, the summer months, and more

EDITOR'S NOTE: Opinions in this Mailbag do not reflect an official viewpoint of CHSAA.

In this installment of the CHSAANow.com Mailbag, we tackle questions about esports, football alignment, rugby, intentional walks in softball, and more.

To ask a question for the next Mailbag, use this form, or ask on Twitter:

(Chris Yunker/Flickr)

I recently heard that you guys are planning to add esports. I'm not sure if that's a good idea or not. What's it all about? And are you really going to say it's a sport?

— Mike, Highlands Ranch

Alright, let's dive right in.

The term "esports" has been around for decades now, and likely originated right around the time the Korean e-Sports Association was founded in the early 2000s, according to this article. It's just a name, so don't get too caught up in semantics.

As we begin the first pilot season this fall, CHSAA is treating esports as a competitive activity. We aren't classifying it as a sport.

More than 22,000 high school-aged kids participate in esports currently in Colorado alone. That's incredible! For context, that's more kids than participated in any sport CHSAA currently sanctions, and is second only to music of every activity.

The main aim with esports is to bring a kid that isn't currently involved in their high school community into that community. They're doing this at home already, so let's have them do this in a social setting with their peers at their schools.

Esports is co-ed, it's accessible, and it's inclusive of a wide range of students. That's a perfect fit with CHSAA's mission.

Esports is also a team-oriented competition, and participants will need to meet the same eligibility requirements as traditional athletes.

This video is a great look into the world of esports at the high school level:

When is esports going to start? Is there more information about it?

— Cayden, Brighton

The first season will begin this coming October, and we will be sending out more detailed information (here on CHSAANow!) in the weeks to come as it firms up.

We will also be having two presentations for school personnel, at the upcoming Colorado High School Coaches Association convention, and then our All-School Summit for athletic directors. That will help disseminate information to their schools and communities.

Prairie Briggsdale football

(Dustin Price/DustinPricePhotography.com)

Can you explain what goes into creating the football leagues? Who is involved? Any insight would be helpful. Thanks!

— Josh, Pueblo

This time around, during the creation of the 2020 & 2021 alignment, it was about an 18-month process. I honestly lost count of the number of meetings that were held, but it was dozens, and the overwhelming majority of them were in-person, sit-down, hours-long meetings.

The process included a wide range of people, notably CHSAA assistant commissioner Bud Ozzello, who retired this summer, football committee chair Chris Noll, CHSAA commissioner Rhonda Blanford-Green, incoming CHSAA assistant commissioner Adam Bright, and the members of the football committee, which includes two members representing each classification. There were also meetings which included district athletic directors and league presidents.

Each football committee member spent hours upon hours receiving feedback and talking through alignment proposals with athletic directors and coaches from the classifications that they represented.

In creating the alignment, the following criteria was used:

  • Enrollment numbers
  • Competitive balance within each conference
  • Geography
  • Risk minimization
  • Success/non-success
  • School participation percentage
  • Regular season/postseason implications

Ultimately, this alignment was given a vote of approval by the Board of Directors at their June meeting.

The process was thorough, to say the least.

Fountain-Fort Carson Horizon football

(Ryan Casey/CHSAANow.com)

Why did CHSAA dictate to the 5A Metro 10 teams that are now broken up into two leagues in the new alignment that they could only play one cross-over game? They are not dictating to the other leagues who they can play in non-conference.

Are they trying to force those teams to play bigger schools to get those schools a "cupcake" game, and if so then does CHSAA understand the safety and risk factor if some of those schools are forced to play the big schools?

If they are then does CHSAA actually care about student safety, as they claim? Makes no sense, and is asking for player safety to be jeopardized. I bet I won't even get an answer as CHSAA and really no one at CHSAA actually looks at their decisions and how they really affect the smaller 5A schools. Here is hoping to get an answer to these questions.

— Todd, Firestone

As mentioned above, one of the main criteria used in the creation of the 2020 and 2021 football alignment was risk minimization. It was at the forefront of each of one those dozens of meetings, which included a massive amount of discussion specific to the Metro 10 League, and a similar league in 4A.

The great thing with the new alignment is that this group of rebuilding schools in 5A has expanded from 10 teams to 12, allowing more programs in similar circumstances to play one another during league play.

Additionally, one of the lessons we learned from the 2018 football season, and specifically the Metro 10 League, is that when they only play one non-conference game, their RPI is artificially inflated because they are in an ecosystem of their own. That created issues not only in seeding, but also within the communities of the schools involved in the Metro 10.

So as a result, the committee made the decision that four of their 10 games should be against teams outside of these two conferences. They are not forced to play other 5A schools, and can opt to add schools from other classifications to their schedules, if they choose to.

This move will also allow some of the other programs in 5A who may also be struggling, especially against traditional powers, to open up additional opportunities for scheduling.

In no way was this move made to "force those teams to play bigger schools to get those schools a 'cupcake' game." The CHSAA office does not schedule for individual teams. Regular season schedules are created by schools.

I would say that CHSAA — as an office, as a football committee, and as a membership — does understand the issues at play as it pertains to 5A football. And you can look at the basic fact that these leagues exist as proof of that.

As someone who attended each of those meetings on football alignment over the past two years, I can assure you that the CHSAA office and membership does care an awful lot, and does take serious consideration in every decision being made, no matter who it impacts.

With the rugby union and rugby league being two of most fastest growing sports in America ... when will we see the sport being sanctioned by CHSAA and or a partnership with Rugby Colorado?

— Eli, Denver

They certainly have the opportunity to seek a pilot opportunity through our Board of Directors. The sanctioning process has recently been revamped, and we just saw three sports successfully gain sanctioned status last April: Unified bowling, boys volleyball and girls wrestling. And, as mentioned above, esports is currently in the piloting process.

That being said, before the process was revamped, girls rugby did make a push for sanctioning in recent years, but no league wanted to sponsor a vote for sanctioning. As a result, their quest ended there.

State softball generic

(Ryan Casey/CHSAANow.com)

Why does CHSAA allow the automatic walk in softball, in other words waiving the batter down to first base without having to pitch to them? This has the affect of eliminating the best hitters from not only a team, but some of the best hitters in the state from participating in a big part of the game.

A lot can happen with four pitches so at least make the defense pitch to each batter, and if they want to pitch four balls, then great.

— Rich, Loveland

This is a national rule and it was made to bring fast-pitch softball in line with slow-pitch softball rules in April 2018, "to keep up with current trends of the sports and maximize the flow of the game."

Here's more information via a press release put out by the NFHS when the change was made.

What do you guys do in the summer? No sports, right? So do you just have BBQs every day, or what?

— Ruth, Colorado Springs

That's correct. (To the "no sports" question, not to the everyday barbecues.) Our season ended with the state baseball championships in early June. But there is still plenty to be done.

We hosted a three-day recruiting evaluation event for boys basketball in late June, the first year such events could be held.

Our staff and Board of Directors were also in Indianapolis for the NFHS Summer Meeting, where that organization celebrated its 100th year. (They also unveiled a new logo.) We attended various workshops and roundtables at that meeting, which also offers a great opportunity for networking and sharing ideas. Rhonda, our commissioner, ran a panel on inclusion and diversity within leadership.

The annual Student Leadership Camp is in early July each year, and our new assistant commissioner Justin Saylor is there leading it along with curriculum director Rashaan Davis. (Our whole administrative staff made visits to the camp this week to take part, as well.)

The summer months are also great for working on projects, and planning ahead. I use it to tackle major projects. In the past, I've completed a redesign of this website in the summer.

Of course, the summer is a great time for the staff to take some much-needed time off to recharge.

And, yes, we have had one staff barbecue over lunch this summer.