updated Nov. 16, 2011 at 7:50 p.m.
UPDATE: Kevin Dustin with UHSAA said the venue will not be moved. He said it would take a storm to cancel the game. However, if the school district decides that it is too dangerous to send the buses, UHSAA will honor that decision. He did not say if or when the game would be rescheduled, just that UHSAA would honor the district’s decision.
ST. GEORGE – In an unexpected turn of events, two Washington County high schools will face each other for the 3A State Championship game this Friday at Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City.
While parents of the Hurricane Tigers and Desert Hills Thunder have expressed their excitement over watching the teams battle each other for the state title, they’ve also expressed their concerns.
“I called UHSAA (Utah High School Activities Association) last week to voice my request of changing the 3A finals football game to a venue in Southern Utah,” said Joel Sanders, parent of a Tigers football player, in a letter to KJZZ. “I called at that time out of a matter of convenience.”
Sanders, however, is now concerned about a weather advisory that will have the teams traveling in what she described as a unsafe conditions.
A winter storm watch is in effect from Friday morning to Saturday morning, and will include 2 to 5 inches of snow, and “gusty southerly winds.” Interstate 15 between Ogden and Provo will likely see significant winds and snow. The weather watch states those traveling should leave Friday afternoon before the storm hits. That, of course, will not be possible for the teams who will be traveling home after midnight on Friday and into the early morning hours Saturday.
Parents are asking UHSAA to consider the hazards and cost of making the two teams travel up north. Parents have expressed their concern to St. George News about the cost of two Region 9 teams traveling to Salt Lake City in buses – a cost that the Washington County School District could save if the game was played in Dixie where the teams are from.
In the semi-final game between Cedar and Deseret Hills, the venue was changed to Dixie State College for that reason. However, UHSAA has said the championship game will not be moved and “that’s just where it’s gonna be held.”
Previous media reports have indicated that the reason was because UHSAA has a contract with KJZZ to broadcast the game.
Jeremy Castro of KJZZ said that because the other championship games are held at Rice-Eccles, it makes sense for them to broadcast all three of the games. He said KJZZ does have the broadcast rights, but does not choose the time and locations of the games; though they are consulted in the process.
“We don’t set games, locations or schedule buses,” Castro said.
Castro said that KJZZ has broadcast one game in St. George before. He also said that if the game was moved to another location, or held on a different day due to the weather, it “may not be feasible for KJZZ to be a part of it” because of the cost to broadcast, which includes set up and manpower.
“It costs us a lot of money to do one game,” Castro said.
Sanders said that’s not worth the risk for the players or the spectators who cannot afford to stay in a hotel to insist the game be played at Rice-Eccles.
“What exactly is the real problem here?” she asked in her letter. “Please reconsider this venue. I doubt you would want anyone hurt either.”