Athlete gets OK to appear in games

Mountain Vista's Bailey Roby can still play, with certain conditions

Tom Munds
Mountain Vista's Bailey Roby, who plays on two prosthetic legs, has been cleared to play on a game-by-game basis as long as both schools and the officials come to an agreement.
Hannah Garcia
Bailey Roby practices shooting three-pointers during halftime in Highlands Ranch on Friday night. The Roby family had to pick up the special blue padding on his prosthetics the same day as the game "otherwise he wouldn't be able to play," according to his mother.
Photo
Posted

After news broke that Mountain Vista basketball player Bailey Roby may have made his last court appearance on Jan. 24, CHSAA said it will let the senior — who wears two prosthetic legs — play with certain conditions.

The story, originally published by Colorado Community Media before being picked up by numerous outlets, began making the rounds on social media late on Jan. 29. The hashtag #LetBaileyRobyHoop gained traction on Twitter, garnering hundreds of positive responses. A fellow student also posted a petition called “Put Roby Back In!” on www.thepetitionsite.com, which had gained 2,348 signatures as of Feb. 3.

Bailey Roby called the social media campaigns “really, really cool.”

“It's all been really positive,” the 6-foot-4 senior said.

Roby, born with just three toes on each foot, had both of his legs amputated as a baby. He was fitted with his first pair of prosthetics at age 3, picked up golf and baseball in elementary school and started playing basketball in the eighth grade.

Pat McCabe, Mountain Vista's athletic director, said he was “pretty damn proud of (the school's) kids” after seeing the burgeoning social media campaigns.

“I would have been a little disappointed if our kids weren't unhappy about this and (weren't) supporting Bailey, because we want him to play,” McCabe said. “Our kids and our community were huge allies.”

In response, the Colorado High School Activities Association released a statement claiming the athletic body's initial decision was made for Roby's safety as well as other players' and that it will now work on a game-by-game basis to approve Roby's participation in future games. Roby will be allowed to play as long as both schools have an agreement for certain safety parameters.

When CHSAA made its original decision, the high school sports authority based it on National Federation of State High School Associations rule 3-5-1 — which states that state associations can “provide reasonable accommodations” to individuals with “disabilities and/or special needs” and “extenuation circumstances” as long as those accommodations do not “fundamentally alter the sport, heighten risk to the athlete/others or place opponents at a disadvantage.”

CHSAA assistant commissioner Bert Borgmann said that although Roby's prosthetics do not alter the outcome of a game or cause a disadvantage, safety was a factor.

“When asked for the waiver of the rule, I had to look at the potential risk to the student and those around him,” Borgmann said. “I determined that the potential was enough that I could not give the waiver.”

McCabe did not agree with that initial decision.

“Did I understand what the justifications were? Yes. Did I agree? No,” McCabe said. “I didn't like it at all. But I did absolutely see where CHSAA was coming from.”

Borgmann said that the organization allowed Roby to play in the Littleton contest on Jan. 24 after discussing parameters to limit risk, but the understanding at the time was that was a one-time allowance for Roby. McCabe responded by leading the effort to get Roby off the bench for his first home game of the year.

“We discussed only the Littleton game and really did not look at future games,” Borgmann said. “As we moved forward with this, and with the success of the parameters established in the Littleton game, both parties (CHSAA and Mountain Vista) determined that a game-by-game assessment could perhaps allow for additional participation.”

When asked why there are safety concerns with Roby playing varsity basketball this year and not last year when he played junior varsity, Borgmann said “it really is the physical nature and speed of the game that differs from junior varsity.

“I remain concerned that without some of the parameters in place, the potential for injury to Bailey and others might have been increased. With the parameters in place, that risk is significantly minimized.”

McCabe said although the school and CHSAA were already discussing Roby's possible future participation and that public reaction may have “expedited the process.”

Roby's father said concerns about the senior posing a safety risk was unfounded, although he said he is glad that it appears CHSAA will make some accommodations for his son.

“I think it's ridiculous,” Scott Roby said. “I don't think Bailey is a hazard to anyone on the floor and certainly not to himself. He's been in hundreds of practices and he played junior varsity last year. If he falls down, he gets back up.”

Scott Roby said that Bailey has never sustained any major injuries and has not caused any harm to other players of which he is aware.

“He might not get in a game situation, but we're OK with that. We don't expect him to play, that's the coach's decision. It's just the part about being ineligible that we have an issue with,” Scott Roby said.

Bailey Roby said the response from school officials and coaches has been mostly positive.

“They just want to see me on the team,” he said.

Roby appeared again in the team's Jan. 31 game against Douglas County, finishing 0-for-1 from the field in the Golden Eagles' 75-59 victory.