Alta High athletic director Morgan Brown remembered a former kicker on the varsity football team whose foot was second to none. In one game, the kicker, who was a freshman at the time, attempted eight PATs and converted them all.
That kicker was a girl.
Brown joined high school athletic directors and football coaches in testifying that they don’t discourage girls from playing on football teams that predominantly feature boys, and that to their knowledge, girls have had positive experiences in their programs. Their comments contrasted with the previous testimony of four young women who detailed their time on high school teams where they felt excluded and, in some cases, experienced bullying or harassment.
Lawyers for plaintiffs suing two school districts and the Utah High School Activities Association for allegedly violating Title IX and the Equal Protection Clause have tried to establish that those organizations have effectively excluded girls form playing football.
They have displayed websites of schools' athletic departments referring to football as “boys football.” They’ve asked witnesses if they or any other coach or administrator at a school have ever referred to it as “coed football.”
In one cross examination Monday, the plaintiffs' lawyers played audio from a 2018 school board meeting honoring the Corner Canyon football team. A person in the audio who sounded like he was speaking for the board referred to the Chargers as “the boys football team” multiple times.
But the districts' and association say there is no written policy that explicitly prohibits girls from playing football. The coaches and athletic directors have attempted to show they actively encourage girls to play.
Brown said Wednesday that there is currently a freshman girl playing on one of the Hawks teams that has previous experience with Ute Conference, a youth football program.
“It was just a natural fit for her,” Brown said, adding that there have even several girls on the Alta football team over the years.
Aaron Whitehead, football coach at Olympus High, said Wednesday that he has actively recruited girls' soccer players to kick for his team. He recounted one instance in 2015 where one of his football players called his attention to a girl taking place kicks for fun and driving the ball long distances.
Whitehead asked if she wanted to kick on the football team and she agreed, he said. The girl served as the main kicker for the junior varsity team and played for the varsity team, but got less reps there.
Whitehead also said he had a female kicker when he coached at East High. That girl, a senior, kicked on the varsity team and became the first girl ever in Utah to score a point in a playoff game, he said.
Girls who play on high school football teams often become kickers — the perception being that’s the only position they could actually play. But Whitehead said he does not consider a kicker to be a “throwaway position” because he’s lost games on missed kicks.
“That’s a vital, vital position,” Whitehead said.
Corner Canyon coach Eric Kjar testified Monday that in his time coaching at Jordan High, he had three female players on his team. One of them was a linebacker on the sophomore team, the other two were soccer-playing sisters who kicked, he said.
“I thought all three were accepted pretty well,” Kjar said.
Glen Varga works at Copper Hills High as an assistant principal. One of his main duties is overseeing athletics.
Varga said several girls have played on the Copper Hills football team. One in particular played on the sophomore team, he said, but opted not to continue in future years because she wanted to join the cheerleading squad, where she competed at the varsity level.
All the coaches and administrators who testified said they have never discouraged a girl who wanted to play football from playing solely based on their sex. Varga said his 12-year-old daughter is interested in playing high school football, and he has encouraged her to do so.
When asked what his attitude is toward a girl playing on the high school football team, Varga said, “If she wants to play, let’s let her play.”