Suspended game between Jordan and East is still controversial

Published: Saturday, Sept. 8 2012 11:00 p.m. MDT

East High principal Paul Sagers confers with referees and coaches as Salt Lake City Fire evacuate fans and players from the East High School stadium after a fire broke out in a facility building at the field in Salt Lake City, Friday, Aug. 31, 2012.

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

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It was a last-minute cancellation that led to a marquee matchup between two of the state's best football programs.

And the Sept. 2 game between 5A's No. 1 program Jordan and 4A's top-ranked team East was every bit as exciting as everyone expected right up until the finish. Well, make that the suspension.

The game was suspended with 41 seconds left in the third quarter with Jordan trailing by a single missed PAT: East 28, Jordan 27.

And now it appears the game everyone couldn't wait to see will never really end.

The controversy comes with what to count and what to chalk up to bad luck.

Utah High School Activities Association associate director Kevin Dustin consulted with principals from East and Jordan and decided the stats from the game would count and the score would be listed, but it would not count as a win or loss. That bothers some because it's an unprecedented decision to count stats from a game without counting the result.

Football historian George Felt pointed out in a recent article that most games that are stopped are finished within a day or two, sometimes the same night at a different stadium. In eight of those games, the partial game score became the final score.

He argues that it's not right to count the stats if the game doesn't really count for either team. In effect it's a scrimmage.

But Dustin and both principals said they're trying to be fair to both teams while making the health and safety of the players the priority.

While statisticians and fans want the game to count as a win or loss, coaches from both schools said they would prefer to finish the game rather than accept the result of a three-quarter effort.

It was the medical staff at East High that first suggested that playing the game the following Saturday morning would be ill advised.

East Principal Paul Sagers said he was alerted to a smoking electrical box late in the third quarter and had "no choice" but to call fire officials. Once firefighters showed up, they informed Sagers the temperature of the box was 308 degrees.

"They told us they had to shut down the power and in order to do that we had to evacuate the stadium," said Sagers, who praised fans from both schools, as well as coaches and players, for a quick and orderly evacuation. Fire officials told them they wouldn't turn the power back on until a licensed electrician came and corrected what looked like an overloaded box.

Sagers said school administrators and coaches met on the field and agreed to play at 10 a.m. Saturday at East or another Region 6 field.

"I wanted to play it," said Sagers. "(Coach) Brandon (Matich) wanted to play it. We don't back down from anybody. … But we got in the locker room and (the medical staff from Salt Lake Regional) said, 'Why would you put your kids at risk? It's one thing waiting 45 minutes, but to go overnight with contusions, that would just be stupid. That would be putting your kids at more risk.'"

East athletic director Kathy Butler called Jordan athletic director Marc Hunter, who said he also had concerns. But Hunter added that the decision was not his to make.

"He told her that he agreed it was probably not a good idea, but the decision was not up to him, it was up to (the) coaches and the principals," said Jordan Principal Tom Sherwood. But before Jordan administrators could speak with East officials, Hunter heard the finish had been canceled on the television news.

That frustrated and angered Jordan coaches who'd planned - and still want - to finish the game.