Was it a sign of the times when LHSAA Executive Director Eddie Bonine called a news conference Tuesday afternoon?
Perhaps. As far as the Louisiana High School Officials Association is concerned, “sign” is the only operative word — as in principals signing contracts with the LHSOA for the upcoming season.
Bonine announced at the news conference that talks with the LHSOA reached an impasse Tuesday morning, moving the LHSAA much closer to a walk-out by officials, who are seeking pay raises in seven sports.
The LHSOA came to the LHSAA in May with its demands, which included raises for football, volleyball, soccer, basketball, wrestling, softball and baseball officials. The LHSOA also sent out contracts to all LHSAA schools requiring them to contract for services at the new higher rates, even though signing the contracts violates part of the LHSAA constitution.
Most pay raises are from $5 to $10 per official, and Bonine said it would amount to approximately $1,800 per school.
“From our standpoint, there can be no agreement or discussion moving forward unless it involves contracts and getting schools to sign them,” LHSOA President Paul LaRosa said by phone after the news conference. “We’ve been promised things in the past only to not see them come to fruition.
“I honestly believe that Mr. Bonine and Keith Alexander have done everything that’s within their power to do. What we want is to change the process. We don’t just want money thrown at us, which is what was done in the past, only to see things go back to the way they were.”
Bonine said members of the LHSAA’s executive committee and other member principals were informed of the impasse by email Tuesday.
“I think we’ll have an idea on what direction we’ll take within the next 24 to 48 hours,” Bonine said.
When asked who would be officiating football games, Bonine responded, “I’m not sure who does. They (LHSOA) are not a union, but if individuals choose to officiate and go across that line. Is that going to cause rift in their organization? It’s a tough call.”
LaRosa said he was given a letter by Alexander, the LHSAA’s assistant executive director who supervises officials, when he arrived for the Tuesday meeting at the LHSAA office.
The letter detailed the plan Bonine and Alexander developed. Bonine told the media that his plan was make the push to get pay raises implemented in 2015-16 with an eye on having them approved by member principals at the annual convention in January.
The letter also said the LHSAA would work to repeal a rule passed at the 2015 convention that took away travel pay for baseball and softball officials who aren’t contacted in advance about rained out games. LaRosa said that terms in the letter also included freezing pay for officials for four years.
Bonine said he doesn’t see the pay raise requests as outlandish and noted several times how Louisiana’s pay scale compares to Nevada, where he was previously executive director. He also acknowledged an “animosity” exists between some LHSAA member schools and officials.
“I’ve fallen into previous actions … I’m guilty by association, representing the LHSAA.” Bonine said. “What I proposed today was ‘the same old song and dance’ they’ve heard.”
LaRosa said the LHSOA could not accept the Bonine’s plan or even a scenario such as the one that played out in 2011 when principals approved a pay raise for basketball officials at a special-called meeting.
“What it comes down to is trust,” LaRosa said. “Can we trust them, and by them, I mean the principals to do this? The answer is no. After I left the meeting, I spoke with our (LHSOA board) and a number of officials groups from around the state.
“Now there are 1,100 football officials. Can we guarantee that all 1,100 won’t work games. We’ve got associations in the state’s biggest areas — New Orleans, Baton Rouge, Monroe and Shreveport — who are standing tall on this. Even if we get a raise, that doesn’t mean the principals wouldn’t vote to take it away.”
Meanwhile, on its website, the LHSAA is actively seeking officials to register for 2015-16. Officials are continuing to complete camps required for certification.
“There are a lot of officials who want to work and they’re getting ready,” Alexander said. “They’re hoping this is resolved.”