Confusion surrounds officials’ no-show at Roaring Fork football game
GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado – Just moments after officiating a Friday night football game in Aspen, Mikel Kerst glanced at his phone.”I had 500 phone calls,” he said with just a hint of hyperbole.Kerst is the assignor for Three Rivers Football Officials Association (TRFOA) and the calls were a byproduct of something that happened – or, more precisely, something that didn’t happen – elsewhere.Over in Carbondale, football players from Roaring Fork and Gunnison high schools showed up to play but officials didn’t. The game was postponed to Sunday and moved to Gunnison.Naturally, the involved parties were none too happy with what went down.So what did happen?Turns out oversight and miscommunication led to the night’s happenings.According to Kerst, the association never received an official schedule from Roaring Fork early in the summer when regional officials associations met to hammer out the season’s assignments. Kerst said Three Rivers “anticipated” the game between Gunnison and Roaring Fork would happen, but never had it officially down as a game to assign.”We anticipated it,” Kerst said. “I’m not going to deny it and say we didn’t know. Unfortunately, the way we’ve been doing this, we’re running very short. We have four assignors on this side of the state – us, Gunnison, Grand Junction and the Craig area. We sit down early in the summer the last couple years and figure out how to cover games.”That includes determining which officials associations will offer up their manpower to help cover another association’s schedule of games for a given week.Roaring Fork football coach and athletic director Greg Holley insists the school did furnish the association with a schedule.”We did what every other school does in the state of Colorado,” he said. “We give the officials our schedule. That’s what I have to do this week. I have to go ahead and give the basketball association that schedules our games our schedules.”Either way, Roaring Fork somehow got lost in the communication mix.Kerst contends the school could have done more to prevent the snafu.TRFOA sends out a document listing the officials assigned to a given contest to schools in the weeks preceding the game. When a school does not see an assignment sheet filter in through the communication lines, the association typically hears about it, Kerst said.Roaring Fork principal Clifton Colia, a former athletic director at Glenwood Springs High School, is unsure whether or not such a document came in via fax or e-mail, but said not seeing something would not necessarily have spurred concern.”I didn’t see it personally,” he said, “and that wouldn’t preclude anything if we didn’t get one. That wouldn’t have been a real red flag for us. … You know, to be honest, we’ve never had to follow up when we send our schedule.”Holley noted that officials were present at Roaring Fork’s only other home football game – an Aug. 29 meeting with Hotchkiss – leaving the school no reason to think officials would not be on hand for the Rams’ game against Gunnison.”We had officials for the Hotchkiss game,” he said. “It was the only game we had that was at home and we had officials for it.”Regardless of what, exactly, happened or what could have been handled better, Kerst accepted full blame for Friday’s happenings.”It was the one game in question,” he said. “Should I have followed up on it? Probably. I do have another full-time job to deal with. This is the reason we need help from all the schools. I have people I could have sent if I would have known. It’s my fault. I’m not going to say it’s not, but we all need to work together.”Kerst, who’s been assigning games the last half-decade or so and officiating much longer, also said he hopes this incident paves the way for better communication in the future.”I have to stand up and take the lumps, but let’s make this better,” he said. “I don’t really care how we as adults come through this. I care about the kids that missed on the game. If that was not the truth, I would not have been doing this the last 25-plus years. There are a lot of other things I could be doing. It’s for the kids standing out there.”Colia felt for the small Carbondale community, which loves its Friday night high school football.”In a small town this Friday night stuff is a big deal,” he said. “It just put a lump in my throat to see everyone lulling about. In the big picture of things, all the inconvenience we had is small compared to the community impact.”Roaring Fork started the season with four homes games on the schedule this season. That dropped to three with the Gunnison game’s shift.Remaining home games for Roaring Fork include a Friday meeting with Basalt and an Oct. 10 date with Grand Valley.Like Kerst, Colia and Holley each said they would do what it takes to ensure something like this does not happen in the future.”We’ll check, double check and, probably, triple check,” Holley said a day after his team beat Gunnison 42-14 in the rescheduled Sunday afternoon game. “It’s just an unfortunate incident. Gosh, we came up here and played the game and it’s over with. We can put all this behind us now, and learn from everything that happened.”
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