RC: I guess that’s why I spent 12 years as a referee — and coaching isn’t the easiest profession either. A lot of my job is just listening to people vent, hearing their concerns, lending encouragement. We want people to be heard, but at the same time we want to follow the processes and be fair. It can be a very stressful job. It’s one that’s very hard to predict. You can come to work and sometimes not get to anything on your list because you never know what emails or phone calls or issues are waiting.
DN: The Logan High quarterback, Chase Nelson, who was ejected from one game and expelled for an additional game for attempting to kick an opponent, was that a difficult call?
RC: It was not a difficult decision, but it was a delicate situation because it was a high-profile athlete on a high-profile team. The rulebook is clear that the consequence (for an ejection) is coaches and players are suspended from the next game. The tough thing is (Logan High) wanted an appeal and there isn’t a formal appeal for player ejections. The due process is right there on the field and when the official follows the rules and makes an ejection, then part of that process is the player sits out the next game. No exceptions. We’ve had officials in the past who, after a review by our office, say they misapplied the rule, they made a mistake, and in those cases an ejection has been overturned. Our office reviewed this situation and that wasn’t the case here. Ejections are not rare; unfortunately, they are part of the game. Last year we had 240 ejections throughout our 20 sports. You have to be careful not to treat one student any different than any of the others.
DN: Are there ever situations that cause you to re-think your rules?
RC: Our board is constantly looking at what we can do to be better as an association. Last year (in football season) there was the situation with East and Timpview having played some games with ineligible players before the state tournament. Our board made a decision as fair as it could, but some innocent schools were impacted because they had to play a different opponent (in the tournament). The rule at the time said that if a team used an ineligible player they MAY forfeit games. That created a situation for the board to revisit and change the rule so it now says SHALL forfeit. That’s a lot easier rule to enforce and defend. That’s just one example where something unfortunate happened but it caused our board to change and improve the rule.
DN: One issue it seems you’re constantly tinkering with is realignment
RC: Our board used to do it every four years, now, because of all the different options for education these days, with charter schools and home-schooling and private schools and fluctuating enrollments, our board made the decision to go to an alignment review every two years. This is the one issue that creates the biggest passion in our communities. Everyone would like to be the largest school in the classification, not the smallest. The issue is fairness, to make the level of competition as fair as possible. That’s what led the board to create six classifications in football. The board felt like football is a sport where you don’t play as many games, usually one per week, you use more players, and it’s a sport that really becomes a numbers game. Our board felt like schools shouldn’t be playing anyone more than twice their size when it comes to health and safety in football. In the past we had football schools three times bigger playing in the same classification. It’s not unusual to see states with more classifications for football than for other sports.
DN: What challenge gets the lion’s share of your time?
RC: That’s easy. Transfers. We had over 1,200 transfers last school year alone that we dealt with. This includes change-of-residence transfers as well as hardship situations. There are 51 state associations, including Washington, D.C., and there are 51 variations of the transfer rule nationwide. It somebody had the perfect answer or perfect rule we’d all be following it.
DN: What makes transferring schools so difficult and time-consuming?