SALT LAKE CITY – Girls' tackle football will not become a sanctioned sport in Utah schools following a ruling from a federal judge that came down Monday.
In 2015, Brent Gordon and his daughter Sam Gordon, who was 12 years old at the time, started a girls-only tackle football league. Since then, interest has skyrocketed.
The league now has hundreds of players every season. Due to the intense interest, Gordon went to the Utah High School Activities Association to ask about getting the sport sanctioned.
When a sport is sanctioned, it opens funding, facilities and coaches, along with other resources, to support the team.
In September 2017, the Gordons filed a lawsuit against the UHSAA, claiming, in part, they violated Title IX laws – laws that protect people based on sex in education programs or activities that receive federal financial aid.
While the UHSAA was cleared of all charges, they did acknowledge a need for change during the case. That change created the "emerging sports" program, which helps to understand which sports are growing. Brent Gordon said that is just one of the positive outcomes of the case.
"Since our lawsuit, girls' wrestling was sanctioned," he said. "In addition to that, we were told and the districts presented to me, and to the court, that they were going to be sanctioning girls' competitive cheer."
His daughter, Sam, who will be heading to Columbia College in the fall, said the whole experience was eye-opening.
"I know that the fight's not done here," she said. "It's a process so it feels amazing to kind of be a trailblazer here."
I know that the fight's not done here. It's a process, so it feels amazing to kind of be a trailblazer here.
Mark Van Wagoner, outside counsel for the UHSAA, said they are happy about the ruling.
"I felt like they were being wrongly cast, wretched individuals, out to hurt girls and they're anything but that," Van Wagoner said.
The Gordons said they will look at other ways to further the cause. But, for now, Sam Gordon said she still loves the game and can't wait for her last league season to start in two weeks.
Correction: The previous version of this story had UHSAA as the Utah High School Athletics Association. That has been corrected.