Raising stipends for officials a good step

Among the nuggets on the AIA Legislative Council meeting was a proposal to raise the pay stipends for officials working all sports. The idea came because of a steady decline in registered (and qualified) officials in the past five years might turn itself around with a bump in pay.

It’s due.

Everyone criticizes the officiating when calls (or non-calls) don’t go their way, and a lot of times it’s a fair criticism. Whether they go for/against a team, the schools simply want consistency from game to game, half to half, quarter to quarter, possession to possession.

Until the National Federation of State High School Associations can adopt a more expansive replay system — technology and expenses to make it happen are unlikely to happen anytime soon — better training and more incentive to attract additional and better officiating is the most logical way to go.

There have long been complaints of politics and ulterior motives when it comes to officiating and who’s assigned to various games (across many sports). But the reality is no umpire or referee is living large because of the current stipends they receive, even if gas money happens to be included in their daily check.

Even if the calls (or non-calls) were the worst you’ve ever seen — and there were plenty of shrugged shoulders to go around during the basketball state tournaments alone — it’s a thankless job 99.5 percent of the time.

As we saw at the end of regulation during the Corona del Sol-Pinnacle boys basketball state championship game, the other .5 percent, is reason enough for the AIA and its member schools to do what it can to keep quality officials and attract more.

Doug King and Jack Erb were consistent, and when controversy swirled in the final seconds of regulation, they communicated with both schools’ coaches quickly, tuned out the background noise and emotion, followed the rules and went to a replay monitor specifically for what they were allowed to view (which, at least until this rule can be expanded, can only be done on the final shot of a state championship game), and they took their time to ultimately get the call correct.

Finding officials in all sports willing to put quality first and consistently communication with participants needs to be the rule, not an exception, and since subjectivity and mistakes can never go away, sweetening the deal for the sake of new blood and a better product is worthwhile.

Mark Heller is the East Valley Tribune assistant managing editor. He can be reached at mheller@evtrib.com or (480) 898-6576.

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