With the last few minutes trickling off the clock, it was a layup by Mountain Vista senior Bailey Roby that made the crowd erupt in cheers.
“I’m usually a three-man,” said Roby, referencing his prolific ability to make his shots beyond the perimeter.
A bittersweet moment, and possibly the last chance the teen will have to score in his high school career. Born with just three toes on each foot, Roby had both legs amputated as a baby. He was fit with his first pair of prosthetic legs at age 3.
Now, wearing a pair of Ossur Flex-Run legs — similar to those of South African Olympic runner Oscar Pistorius — Roby is caught up in a tangle of red tape that will likely bar his entrance into another game this year.
The Golden Eagles improved to 14-1 after routing the Littleton Lions 80-49. And although Roby’s two points may not have won the Jan. 24 game, he still earned the loudest applause of the night following his entrance into the game with mere minutes left in the last quarter. Supporters hugged and patted Roby on the back, offering congratulations and condolences.
“Bailey has been involved in Mountain Vista basketball one way or another for the last four years,” said Pat McCabe, Mountain Vista’s athletic director.
Last year, as a junior, Roby made the junior varsity basketball team, fulfilling a dream. Since then, Roby has been a fourth-quarter favorite, with fans chanting his name and thundering with applause.
This year, Roby made the varsity team, playing in eight games and scoring 11 points. Midway through the season and after calls from officials, the Colorado High School Activities Association stepped in, claiming that it could not authorize Roby to play because of his disability.
“There was no way we could get an authorization letter for Bailey to play,” McCabe said. “We got a one-time official authorization (from CHSAA) for the game tonight against Littleton. After this, he won’t be able to get in the game.”
Although he was authorized to play last year on the junior varsity team, McCabe said the “speed and physicality” of varsity basketball poses more risk with Roby in the game.
But Roby’s parents, Kim and Scott, said they do not understand why the decision was enacted halfway through the season.
“It’s actually kind of confusing for us,” Scott Roby said. “We were told that it was an issue with the officiating, that the officials were not comfortable letting Bailey play without a waiver.”
With Mountain Vista’s .933 win rate so far this season, and eyes on the state championship, Bailey Roby said it would be hard to watch from the bench.
“It is my senior year, and it’s hard to play in my last game,” he said, expressing hope that CHSAA may reverse the decision. “They just need to work it out so that they’ll understand how to make sure prosthetics are OK in sports.”
When asked for the reasoning behind the decision, CHSAA assistant commissioner Bert Borgmann pointed to National Federation of State High School Association rule 3-5-1, which says 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.”
“Nobody wants to tell anybody no, but we can’t authorize him to play, not only for other players but for him as well,” Borgmann said. “The rules are meant to keep the game what it’s supposed to be.”
Bailey Roby’s parents said they were “kept in the dark,” calling the decision to prevent their son from playing a surprise and insisted he poses no danger to himself or others.
“We would just prefer to see Bailey be able to finish out the year, finish what he started,” Scott Roby said.
The family plans to protest the decision.
“I think the main thing is, I would hate for this to happen to someone else’s kid,” Kim Roby said. “We’re just trying to keep our heads up high and be a good team player.”
Despite the turmoil, Scott Roby said they were thankful for the time their son had on the court.
For now, Bailey Roby will have to take solace in cheering for his Golden Eagles from the bench as they make a run for the championship.
“Now, I just gotta sit on the bench and support (the team),” Bailey Roby said. “The most important thing is being a part of the team.”