Spring activities on hold in bid to keep kids safe

Column by Jim Benton
Posted 3/31/20

Nobody should blame Rhonda Blanford-Green if she feels overwhelmed, stressed, anxious or pressured these days. These are common thoughts for people who have to make tough decisions. Blanford-Green is …

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Spring activities on hold in bid to keep kids safe


Nobody should blame Rhonda Blanford-Green if she feels overwhelmed, stressed, anxious or pressured these days. These are common thoughts for people who have to make tough decisions.

Blanford-Green is the commissioner of the Colorado High School Activities Association and has already had to cancel the final few days of the state basketball tournaments, and spring sports and activities are suspended until April 18 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“With our first decision about suspending spring activities, it’s important that people understand it is spring activities and not sports,” said Blanford-Green. “We have speech and music going on. We put together some of our state’s best education leaders to guide us in some of our decision-making.

“Obviously, the ultimate decision comes from my desk but I have surrounded myself with some pretty compassionate but also responsible administrators that know that we’re making tough decisions, but the ultimate thing is to make sure we put the well- being of our students, our coaches, officials and our whole staff out of harm’s ways during this unknown time.”

State and government agencies also figure into CHSAA’s decision, and the impact of these crazy times has economically impacted the CHSAA after stopping the state basketball tournaments. Girls semifinals were played but the limited spectators who were allowed to watch got in free. And with spring sports, at least in my opinion, likely to be canceled, that could be another costly loss.

“About half our revenue comes from ticket sales,” pointed out Blanford-Green. “We don’t have expenses but don’t have revenue.”

The CHSAA is in a waiting pattern like the rest of us.

“Our decision for spring sports is totally dependent on any type of decisions that are made about in-school resuming of academics,” said Blanford-Green. “We are not going to operate outside of any type of decisions that are made where kids are not in school. We’re education-based.”

More decisions will have to be made and Blanford-Green is ready to face the music.

“We’re in a world pandemic,” she insisted. “At the end of the day you have to put things into perspective about the decisions I’m making vs. the decisions of our president or governor or mayors of these cities that are going to impact people’s lives forever. To me it’s a no-brainer to stop the spread of this. We have to adjust to this to make sure that there are not lives that are imperiled because of decisions we don’t make.

“I never felt like I was taking something away as much as I felt like I was protecting those that were in those facilities from the unknown. We just have to be part of the solution which is shutting down like everybody else to make sure we are not contributing to the spread of COVID-19.”

Otto the Orange

Ellen Durkin spent part of her time at Syracuse University with a secret identity.

Durkin, a 2016 Chaparral graduate, is a Syracuse senior who was studying music industry and was one of the students inside the 18- to 20-pound costume of Otto the Orange, the school’s mascot.

Otto is an anthropomorphic orange and wears a blue cap and blue pants. Sports Illustrated listed Otto as the ninth best college football mascot in its all-time rankings.

Genders differ for the students who try out to be Otto. There are morning training sessions and team meetings. The students are members of the spirit team and are technically considered student athletes, so all Otto appearances for the spring have been canceled by the NCAA because of COVID-19.

One of the stipulations of being Otto is anonymity and only five people can be told of the student’s dual role of being Otto at sporting events, social functions, weddings, alumni events and other Syracuse gigs.

“Trying out, it was really hard not to tell people, but once I joined the team you had your teammates that you could talk about your experiences with and that’s why we became so close as teammates,” said Durkin. “Part of the fun was just being able to have a secret and trying to keep it away. We were only allowed to tell essential people, so one of my roommates knew because she would give backup cover stories if I was going to be away. She could cover for me. But keeping a secret was fun.”

Her secret was uncovered at Syracuse’s final basketball game at the Carrier Dome when all senior Ottos were revealed.

“Being Otto was really the coolest experience you could imagine,” said Durkin. “Some people are definitely afraid of mascots and once you get practice it gets easier to read the room and see when you are wanted and when people would rather not see you. Away games people were at least civil for the most part.

“Otto is a pretty lovable mascot, he’s not intimidating or cocky and he just kind of tries to be a voice of happiness. Some people were kind of rude but for the most part it was fun. Most of the rooms you go into were full of Syracuse fans so you would walk in and be the life of the party every time. My coach told me earlier this year that Otto was going to do about 700 appearances. So it is pretty busy.”

Hall of Famer

Cherry Creek football coach Dave Logan will be inducted into the National Federation of State High School Associations Hall of Fame at the NFHS summer meetings scheduled to be held in Denver on July 1.

Logan is one seven athletes to be inducted. He was a football, basketball and baseball standout at Wheat Ridge High School in the early 1970s and was drafted by teams in all three professional leagues. Logan was a two-sport standout at the University of Colorado and played for the Cleveland Browns and Broncos in the NFL.

He is the play-by-play announcer for the Broncos, is a host for a morning show on KOA radio and has won seven state football titles at four different high schools.

Other familiar athletes being inducted include former Denver Nuggets star Alex English, who played at Dreher High School in Columbia, S.C., and then became the leading scorer in University of South Carolina history.

Former Colorado Rockies player Matt Holiday will also be inducted. He three-sport letterman at Stillwater (Okla.) High School and hit .443 with 12 home runs as a senior.

Jim Benton is a sports writer for Colorado Community Media. He has been covering sports in the Denver area since 1968. He can be reached at jbenton@coloradocommunitymedia.com or at 303-566-4083.


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