LA high school football possibly sidelined over referee feud
NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - Louisiana's most accomplished high school football coach is questioning whether his players will see time on the field this fall.
"I don't think we'll have a season. I don't know who you're going to put on the field," John Curtis head football coach J.T. Curtis said.
His strong remarks come as a fight over pay and the process of raises for officials has come to a head.
"I don't think we're going to play games if we don't have competent officials on the field. I think administrators would have great questions about who are we actually putting out there," Curtis said.
"Our officials decided we had to do something," Louisiana High School Officiating Association's Paul LaRosa said.
LaRosa and officials are fed up with how things are not going in their favor off the field with the Louisiana High School Athletics Association.
"Four of our sports, we're asking for $5 an official in terms of an increase per game. In three others, we are asking for a little more money [$10] because they are further behind the curve," LaRosa said. "We are requesting that they sign a contract with us."
Officials say it's not so much about the pay raises as it is broken promises.
Last year, officials compromised a $5 per game per official for volleyball and basketball games, but when the measure went for a vote in front of the association, it was struck down.
Also without any notice, the association took away half pay for baseball games officials when the games were rained out, putting an even larger divide between the two sides.
If an agreement is not made by the beginning of the school year, all high school sports are in jeopardy.
"We remain confident that we can [get this resolved], but if we can't get it resolved, then it's very possible that we won't have jamborees at the end of August and then the season that begins the following week won't happen," LaRosa said.
"The bottom line is right now I cannot write a check that someone else is going to have the cash to pay what they're requesting," newly elected LHSAA Executive Director Eddie Bonine.
Bonine is working to get principals and officials to meet over pay and the process in which raises are given out.
Principals vote on officials' pay, and officials have little say.
"When we have kids asking their coaches, hey I heard commissioner Bonine on the radio. Are we going to have a season? That makes my heart hurt," Bonine said. "In this case what has transpired is the kids are the ones that are going to be left standing on the sidelines."
With schools looking at a bigger price tag per game, a majority of principals are not budging.
"In the proposal, I stated that I would do everything everything I could...to get the increase in which they're requesting across-the-board not just in football but across-the-board but I was going to need some time," Bonine said.
But time has not been a fan of officials in the past, according to Curtis.
"I think that they're tired of broken promises and I understand that," Curtis said.
"There really aren't any quote replacement officials out there to do what we do," LaRosa said.
Both sides will meet on Sunday to discuss possible changes.
The raises officials are asking for would mean about a $1700 increase to schools involved in all seven sports.
Schools participating in fewer sports would pay less money.
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