Everyone is familiar with the phrase stuck between a rock and a hard place. The LHSAA and one of its affiliates, the Louisiana High School Officials Association, have a new one.
They’re stuck between a hard place and each other.
It reminds me of the 1972 Stealers Wheel hit “Stuck in the Middle with You.”
Ah yes, “Clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right, here I am stuck in the middle with you. … And I wonder what it is I can do.”
After an officials’ advisory committee meeting and a meeting with new LHSAA Executive Director Eddie Bonine in recent weeks, the LHSOA executive committee sent out a mandate to all LHSAA member schools late last week.
Starting in 2015-16 the LHSOA requires all schools using their services to sign a contract. Part of this agreement is a new pay scale set up by the LHSOA board for baseball, basketball, football, softball, soccer volleyball and wrestling.
The move comes 31/2 months after LHSAA member principals rejected modest pay raise requests for basketball and volleyball officials. Member principals also passed a proposal that eliminated partial payment baseball and softball officials were receiving for rainout games.
Disputes over pay for officials have become more common in the past 10 years. Unless some sort of compromise or plan is reached during the LHSAA executive committee’s summer meeting set for June 1-2 both sides may end up in uncharted territory.
And there’s a very good chance neither side will come out looking like the good guy.
One key issue is that the LHSAA’s executive committee does not have the authority to grant the officials the mandates they are seeking. The LHSAA’s constitution states the LHSAA sets pay scales, etc. The only way to change the constitution and bylaws is by a vote of all principals. That can only happen at the January convention or a special-called meeting.
“I guess one of the frustrating things about this is I’ve had legislators and now officials ask us (LHSAA executive committee) to change things we can’t change,” LHSAA President Vic Bonnaffee of Central Catholic said. “We have the power to do some things, but changing the constitution isn’t one of them. If this can’t be resolved, the student-athletes are the ones who will be hurt. And that’s a shame.”
Is this a case of the LHSOA trying to hold the LHSAA hostage? Or has it been the other way around since member principals have approved a handful of pay raises through recent decades?
“This is a crucial time for us in terms of trying to recruit officials,” LHSOA President Paul LaRosa said. “There’s more to it than money. The pay raises we were asking for were modest. They were placed on the agenda but no one spoke on their behalf. And then you had money taken away from the baseball and softball officials.
“I was there (at the LHSAA meeting) and when the principals voted to take away the partial payment and just pay baseball and softball officials’ mileage, there was applause. There appeared to be no respect for what we do. We deserve respect and to have a voice in what we are paid as independent contractors.”
It’s easy to cover the officials with a broad stroke and call them greedy. For most, it is a second job. However, few can argue that the cost of being an official has not increased. The LHSAA’s certification requirements, which are among the nation’s toughest, are part of the reason.
The LHSAA has publicly noted that its current pay scale is among the lowest nationally in many sports, including basketball. Most schools don’t have bottomless-pit accounts they can dip into to pay officials either. Athletes at some schools have to raise money to pay officials, since gate proceeds typically don’t cut it.
Of course there’s a flip side. Many younger officials tell the LHSOA make more money doing youth league games, and they don’t have the added cost and certification requirements.
Yep. “Stuck in the Middle with You.”
Track bests, all-state
The Advocate seeks top marks from the 2015 outdoor season for the All-Metro track teams from schools in the Baton Rouge area. Coaches have until noon Monday to submit top marks from the regular season.
Baton Rouge area baseball and softball coaches have until 5 p.m. Sunday to submit all-state nominations for the Louisiana Sports Writers Association’s all-state teams.
Players nominated must be first-team all-district selections. Nominations must include the player’s name, position he/she received all-district honors for playing and full-season statistics.
The list of top marks for track and LSWA all-state nominations should be submitted by email to firstname.lastname@example.org or by fax to (225) 388-0318.