Officiating compromise

Staff reports

Of the proposals voted upon at the LHSAA Annual General Business Meeting in January, a failed proposal to initiate pay raises for officials has had the most immediate and impactful repercussions. At one point the possibility of a boycott by officials emerged, and the remainder of the LHSAA basketball season lay in doubt.

However, I am proud to say that negotiations between the Louisiana High School Officials Association and LHSAA school principals have established a temporary compromise, and the basketball season will continue as scheduled. I now wish to discuss the issue and the LHSAA’s plan moving forward.

All LHSAA member institutions are granted representation at the General Business Meeting (held at the LHSAA Annual Convention). It is at this meeting that principals vote in a democratic process to approve or block changes to playing rules and the LHSAA Handbook. This year, one such proposal on the agenda—Item Number 25—called for an amendment to Section 9 of the handbook to initiate a pay raise for officials in nine LHSAA-sanctioned sports. This measure was voted down by a majority of the schools represented (more than 75 percent of the LHSAA membership attended).

Immediately following the meeting, steps were taken in anticipation of a potential officiating work stoppage. The LHSAA recognized that the decision would likely be unpopular with officiating associations statewide. However, all officials’ associations had signed contracts to provide officiating services for the current school year. Also, a work stoppage would have placed the current basketball season in serious jeopardy. Member schools cannot participate in games unless they can secure certified officiating crews. I ruled that all LHSAA regulations regarding this policy would remain in place, but games affected by a work stoppage would be made up at a later date if an agreement could be reached.

The LHSAA called an emergency meeting February 2 to bring representatives of the fourteen officials’ associations and the principals’ groups for the corresponding regions together to identify a course of action suitable for all parties involved. My executive staff and I helped mediate the situation, which is explicitly an impasse between the officials’ associations and principals’ associations. The LHSAA is adamant that work stoppages be avoided for the sake of the student-athletes involved, who should not be penalized for factors out of their control. The LHSAA exists to foster the positive development of these student-athletes, and this mission should not be lost amid such disagreements.

In the end, both sides deliberated and came to a positive, mutual agreement. LHSAA Executive Committee President Ken Delcambre agreed to resubmit his proposal to the committee for review at its meeting on March 16, and a special-called meeting of LHSAA membership will occur June 3 so principals may reconsider the proposal. And, most importantly, all officiating associations have agreed to work for the remainder of the year. I highly credit both sides for having the dignity and foresight to reach a compromise and to revisit these conversations at an appropriate time.