Gridley Youth Football and Cheer (GYF&C) was fined $4,000 by the Northern California Federation of Youth Football (Nor Cal Fed) for failing to field five teams for Sunday's road game against the Chico Scorchers. GYF&C President Steve Del'Nero said Gridley plans to appeal the fine.

Gridley Youth Football and Cheer (GYF&C) was fined $4,000 by the Northern California Federation of Youth Football (Nor Cal Fed) for failing to field five teams for Sunday's road game against the Chico Scorchers. GYF&C President Steve Del'Nero said Gridley plans to appeal the fine.

The penalty is $500 per football team that doesn't show up, and $300 per cheerleading squad. GYF&C was notified on Tuesday that the fine was in place and that their next game would be forfeited had they not paid by that time, and each subsequent game would be treated the same. If the fine isn't paid in 30 days, Nor Cal Fed can remove their playoff rights and even remove them from next year's schedule.

The problem arose when the Scorchers had a scheduling conflict at Butte College, the site for their games this season. The Roadrunners had a home game scheduled for the same Saturday, September 19, as the contest between Chico and Gridley. Chico moved the game from Saturday to Sunday.

"They were informed that a Sunday game would be tough for our association because of the heavy Mormon and Catholic folks that are involved with our association," Del'Nero said, adding that one team was going to be missing about 60 percent of their players, and these low numbers could expose the kids to injury. Some Gridley kids had other commitments for that Sunday.

Gridley countered with an offer to Chico to use the Gridley High School field free of charge, still collect money on the gate and concession stands, and essentially treat it like it was still a home game. Gridley fans would even sit on the visitor's side of the field (they also offered to play anywhere else on Saturday).

Chico President James Rosenbalm said it was a generous offer, but that their board still decided against it, preferring not to travel and thinking that it still wouldn't have the feel of a home game. They would have had to pay Butte College whether they played there or not due to the contract.

Rosenbalm said they also tried to secure the Pleasant Valley High School field for Saturday, but it too was in use. He estimated that Chico earns about $6,500 per home game, but didn't know how much they made on Sunday. They still earned money off of some concession sales and merchandise sales, although not as much as they would have had there been games, and lost their gate money.

"Everybody's reason for not being able to show up is a good one, whether it's religious, or you've got a wedding to go to, or whatever it may be," Rosenbalm said. "Those kinds of things happen. But the penalty's still in place, regardless."

Nor Cal Fed President Bill Fox said Gridley made a good offer, but in the end it was still Chico's decision, and moving the game to Sunday was within the rules.

"It's their home game," he said. "You can't tell them you've got to move your game to Gridley. If they can't have the field on Saturday, they're entitled to have that game on Sunday."

A team is required to have a minimum of 16 players to play a game. Del'Nero said one of his teams only has 19 players, and was surely going to be missing a lot more than three.

Fox said he would waive the fine if Gridley had at least 11 players show up for each team. They would still have to forfeit the game, but he would waive it because they could play a jamboree-type scrimmage and still sell tickets to pay their rent and pay the referees. But any less than that and Gridley would still be fined.

"I've got my board members asking me, 'What did you give them that break for? You had no authority to give them that break. It's 16 as far as we're concerned,'" Fox said. "I said, 'Well, hey, I did it. I'm the commissioner, I made a decision and I've got to stick by it.'"

Nobody was able to provide an accurate account of how many coaches and players from Gridley did show up to the field, but Del'Nero said a genuine attempt to field their teams was made.

A few upset parents said that they were told there was no game, but Del'Nero said they were misinformed. He said flyers were handed out, but some parents may not have gotten the right information if they only dropped their child off at practice.

"Many parents were told, 'If you can make it on Sunday, come on Sunday. But if we don't have full teams, you're just going to be told to go home,'" Del'Nero said.

Del'Nero said they informed players that there would be no disciplinary action for those who couldn't show up for the game.

"We took information from a good number of parents that are involved in our association who said based on their family beliefs, their religious values, that they would not play on a Sunday," he said. "They felt that religion was bigger than football. I'm not saying it should or shouldn't be. I'm saying if your family believes religion is over football, then religion is over football."

Fox said he's not trying to ruin the Gridley program, but that there are 26 towns in the league that all need to adhere to the rules. There were six total Sunday games in Nor Cal Fed this season. The money from the fine will go to the Scorchers, and not to Nor Cal Fed.

"We were doing this for our parents and our players," Del'Nero said. "If we fail in contesting that fine, I can tell you we've built up more than enough money to cover that. The parents are not going to be asked to hand over money to pay a fine."