The Lafayette Area Football Officials Association and the Baton Rouge Area Football Officials Association both held meetings Monday night.
Though leaders for both groups say their intentions are the same, the Lafayette group was the one that passed a resolution saying its members won’t work regular-season high school games this fall until the LHSAA agrees to contract terms laid out by the Louisiana High School Officials Association in May.
“We’re taking our directives from the LHSOA. … There’s no question about it,” BRAFOA past-president Marlon Harrison said Tuesday. “Last night was our first meeting for all returning officials, and that’s an information-based meeting. It was about setting our training schedule, collecting fees and doing all the things we’re supposed to do.
“It was not the time to discuss the contract situation. There’s another meeting Sunday, and we’ll see what happens. What a lot of people don’t understand is that this isn’t just about money. It’s about respect and making sure we are part of the process to decide on pay raises. Right now we’re not.”
A meeting of the LHSOA’s Board of Directors is set for noon Sunday at the Crowne Plaza and LHSAA Executive Director Eddie Bonine is scheduled to meet with the group. A second meeting for officials groups in all sports is set for July 15 in New Orleans.
When the LHSOA board meets, it can note that the football officials groups in New Orleans, Alexandria and Lafayette have publicly made their intentions known by a vote of their members. Groups in New Orleans and Alexandria voted to mandate a contract system last week.
LAFOA President Mike Fontenot said all 105 officials in attendance Monday night voted not to work regular-season games until the LHSAA agrees to allow member schools to sign the LHSOA contract that mandates pay raises for officials in seven sports and changes the method for how pay raises are awarded. Under the LHSOA plan, schools must sign contracts to gain the services of its officials.
A study conducted by LHSAA states that the additional cost for most schools is about $1,800 per year for all sports. The decision by LHSAA principals to reject pay raises for basketball and volleyball officials in January, along with a vote that took away rainout travel pay for baseball and softball officials, led to the current standoff.
“We felt that (making a public statement) was something we needed to do,” Fontenot said. “We made sure everybody in the room understood the history before we voted. We’ve got older officials who know the history and newer officials who don’t.
“One of our members, Dan Gautreaux, presented a timeline of the last 25 years and explained what has happened … The fact that there haven’t been regular pay raises and talked about the contract situation. After that the floor was open for questions. The whole process took 45 minutes.”
Negotiations between the LHSAA and LHSOA broke off two weeks ago, when the LHSOA, led by President Paul LaRosa, refused to back down from its contract demands. Bonine and LHSAA assistant executive director Keith Alexander, who coordinates the officials, asked the officials to work through the fall without a contract. Bonine and Alexander said they would work to get pay raises and other legislation passed by member principals in January.
Bonine said the LHSAA constitution does not allow its member schools to sign contracts with officials, who are considered to be independent contractors, in any sport. He said he does not have the authority to override the constitution and said a change would have to be voted on by the full membership.
Nothing has changed since that June 23 meeting at the LHSAA office, Bonine said.
“I’ll basically be coming in with the same offer I had a couple of weeks ago,” Bonine said. “The hope is that there might be some change of heart. We’ll see. This meeting will be decisive either way. We’ll know if we need to move in another direction. There’s certainly a sense of urgency given that it’s July and games are supposed to start in a few weeks.”
A compromise doesn’t appear likely to go the LHSAA’s way, said former LHSOA President Bryan Greenwood.
“I could see this coming,” said Greenwood, who is based in the Monroe area. “It goes back to 2011, and the night the basketball officials didn’t work. We knew then something needed to be done. There’s no way principals are going to willingly approve a pay raise that would cost them money. History shows it won’t happen.”
Greenwood said nine of the 10 football officials associations that took part in an LHSOA conference call two weeks ago agreed to hold out until a contract-process is approved. He said the Lake Charles Area officials were the only football group that hasn’t declared its intention to back the LHSOA. Greenwood also said all nine volleyball officials groups back the LHSOA — a fact that some dispute.
“That’s news to me,” Capital City Board of Volleyball Officials assignment secretary Nedda Taylor said of the volleyball situation. “You’ve got a bunch of people saying different things. I think as a group we need to be unified. If all the volleyball officials groups decide to go this way, we’ll support that. It’s tough because we feel like we’re out there to support the kids who play. They’ll be the ones who lose in all this.”