Amador High football season canceled amid investigation into players’ racist chat thread

Amador High School’s football season took a hit earlier this season when a nonleague varsity home game in Sutter Creek was abruptly canceled shortly before kickoff. Now the Buffaloes’ season is officially over.

In a statement sent to Amador parents and coaches on Monday night, the Board of Trustees for the Amador County Unified School District announced the investigation into a group chat with racial undertones and other concerns led the district to pull the plug on the season.

The Sept. 17 game against Rosemont High School of Sacramento was called when Amador High administrators learned of the extent of the chat. Said Amador County Superintendent Torie F. Gibson in the letter, “On September 17, 2022, the District suspended the Amador team pending an administrative review of allegations concerning a highly inappropriate group chat threat involving the majority of the varsity football team. The scope of the allegations escalated the need for an external investigation by an independent investigator, with some of the allegations being referred to law enforcement. Our initial estimate for this review is predicted to be a minimum of 30 days.”

With that, the district decided “the best course of action is to cancel the remainder” of the Amador season. The district said it ended the Buffaloes season on Monday in large part, “out of respect to other teams in our league so they have time to make necessary changes to their football schedules.”

The statement continued in bold lettering, “Additionally, any Amador High School varsity football team activities are not sanctioned, supervised, or sponsored by the District in any way.”

The statement said the “goal of this process is to obtain all the facts in this case in order to make accurate and sound decisions so that we can learn and grow from this situation and become better as a result of it.”

Gibson said her office will update its community with the findings of the investigation and that “we are very limited in what can be shared with the public.”

Gibson added, “This was an extremely difficult decision to make. As the Superintendent of Schools, it is ultimately my responsibility to address any alleged violations of law involving staff or students. Staff and students are entitled to a safe, welcoming, and nurturing environment. This is our opportunity to live our values and beliefs, and we must act.”

Amador’s junior varsity team will continue its season. The varsity team was 0-4, suffering three losses on the field and the forfeit loss to Rosemont on Sept. 16.

The Buffaloes were scheduled to open Mother Lode League action on Friday against Summerville with following games against Sonora, Bret Harte of Angel’s Camp, Calaveras of San Andreas and Argonaut of Jackson in a regular-season finale on Oct. 28.

The Amador-Argonaut game is always a much-anticipated rivalry game, with this one marked as a 100th contest between the programs. The loss of home revenue from canceled football games hurts teams for any varsity program. An overflow rivalry game such as Amador-Argonaut can generate as much as $30,000 with ticket sales, parking, concessions and the sale of school merchandise. Money raised from home games generally helps fund all sports programs on a campus.

Amador High opened in 1911. There has discussion of merging Amador and Argonaut by 2024. Amador has a storied football program. The Buffaloes under coach Bill Baker reached the State Division 6-AA finals in finishing with a school-record best 14-2 record in 2018. Amador went 10-2 in 2019 but dipped to 0-10 in 2021.

Rosemont’s reaction

Rosemont coach John Straw said his players, many of whom are Black, were stung by the speculation of the group chat by Amador. Rosemont, of the Sacramento City Unified School District, is 4-1. The team has used the Amador situation as a life lesson, Straw told The Bee on Monday night in a text message.

“Spoke to (the team) about how situations like this will define our character. Do we go down to their level or do we take the high road and learn from this and show compassion?” he said in expressing that he wishes Amador’s football program well.

“Our kids all responded well, and I feel they have matured from this. The real world isn’t always a pleasant place, but you have to fight for you and what you deserve.”