It’s still a little too early to press the panic button, but time is running out on the play clock.
The high school football season is now just seven weeks away, meaning the LHSAA and the Louisiana High School Officials Association may need to go to their hurry-up offense to end their tug-of-war.
Sunday could be key in preventing what would be a large black eye for the state if somehow the two sides can’t reach an agreement and officials go through with their plans to walk out and not call games this school year.
The LHSOA’s executive committee is scheduled to meet Sunday at the Crowne Plaza in Baton Rouge. LHSAA Executive Director Eddie Bonine and assistant executive director Keith Alexander, the coordinator of officials, are expected to participate in the meeting as well.
Here’s what we know.
Officials want a pay raise. And no, this isn’t just football officials. This also includes volleyball, soccer, basketball, wrestling, softball and baseball.
School principals from across the state rejected proposed pay raises for basketball and volleyball officials in January at the annual convention.
On top of that, principals also voted in that same convention to get rid of the partial payment given to softball and baseball officials who travel to games that end up being rained out.
Most referees and umpires do it as a part-time job. So they are likely leaving one job (meaning taking off work and using personal time or losing money) to travel to a game. So now, if they get to a game and Mother Nature prevails, the umpires are just out of luck. That’s probably not the message you want to send to the people who are doing a thankless job as it is.
And though economic times are tough, they probably aren’t THAT tough, especially considering the amount the officials are requesting.
For example, a $5 pay raise in pay would give some of the top officials $90 for regular-season games.
That’s money that could easily be made up somewhere else. Something as simple as raising ticket prices 50 cents a game would handle that with ease.
Two quarters, five dimes or 10 nickels, isn’t going to stop a fan from coming to the game. (Heck, there are some fans who comes to the game and just whine about the officiating all game anyway, so they need to be charged an extra 50 cents anyway).
Bonine, who has been tossed right into the middle of this in his first few months on the job, has proved in other areas that he’s willing to listen and try to do what’s best for the state. Here’s hoping he takes that same approach in this one.
Bonine’s original plan was that officials maintain their current pay rate for one more school year. That would give him time to lobby the principals and get the pay raises approved.
But officials say they don’t trust that will happen, and thus have threatened to not work games this fall.
Notice the most important people in all of this — the students who play the game haven’t been mentioned yet.
It’s because I’m banking on Bonine, the principals and the officials getting on the same page and doing what’s best for the students.
This is too important for the powers that be on both sides to just sit around with their arms folded, which of course, is the referee signal for a “delay of game.”
And with the season fast approaching, we definitely don’t need that.