OHSAA needs to ante up to help officials

Published 12:53 am Wednesday, June 14, 2023

It’s time for the Ohio High School Athletic Association to do something.

The OHSAA as well as other states have seen a decline in officiating in many sports. The National Federation of High Schools along with the OHSAA and other states have urged fans and coaches not to be so critical and berating and constantly attacking referees and umpires.

When fans and coaches become irate and verbally — and even physically — abusive, there is no excuse for that behavior. But that’s not the only reason for the decline in umpires and referees.

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As I have always pointed out, when they say it’s not about the money, it’s about the money.

When I say it’s time for the OHSAA to do something, I don’t mean to scold everyone and ask them to make nice. The OHSAA is great about taking everyone’s money and putting it in their pockets with little return to the schools which are the source of their wealth.

Anyone who wants to become an official needs to take an officiating class. Guess what? It costs money.

The application fee is $70 for one sport and another $15 for each additional sport. New officials are required to take a class that costs $150 or more depending on the instructor.

Officials must attend a combination of online and local meetings for a total of four and belong to a local association that will set its own fee which range between $25 to $35 in river associations Ironton, Portsmouth and River Cities. Association dues are also for each sport and have their own voted leadership boards.

You must also purchase your clothing, shoes and equipment which is usually will run approximately $500 to $600 for baseball and softball umpires. Other sports do not require a mask, chest protector and shin guards and equipment costs will be less.

All officials are require to attend a state meeting and at least four local chapter meetings. Chapter fees are $25 for each season.

The pitch clock in the major leagues and minor leagues will trickle down to the colleges but it should also be instituted in high school. One reason for the decline of baseball umpires is the length of the game, especially when the temperatures climb. Softball games last about an hour and a half while baseball games tend to last at least another hour. And this is for the same amount of money.

Umpires can work for the same amount of money and in less time which is a no brainer. One solution would be to pay baseball umpires $100 since they work longer and must cover a much larger field.

Maybe the OHSAA could pick up the application fee. In return, anyone who finishes an officiating class and passes the test and is licensed would agree to work that sport for five years. If they fail to work a certain amount of games each season over the five-year period, they would be required to reimburse the OHSAA and with a penalty. Trust me, the OHSAA has the lawyers who can put together a contract that would be binding.

Fans who are ejected from games can be banned from attending any athletic event at that particular school for a year from the time they are banned.

Or, do like Adams County which has a law that anyone ejected from a game must pay an $80 fine if they refuse to go quietly. A police officer actually writes you a ticket and you must appear in court or pay the fine much like a traffic ticket unless you leave quietly with no resistance. If a fan resists, they are subject to the ticket and can be removed in handcuffs and taken away in a police cruiser.

The ordinance was passed by the county commissioners and applies to high school and middle school contests.

Schools in Adams County include Peebles, West Union, North Adams and Manchester schools.

I can remember the days of the old Ironton Recreation Department when kids began playing Little Little Men tee-ball in the morning and it continued through all age groups throughout the day. A lot of high school boys would be coaches and umpires for the games.

There weren’t a lot of parents at the games because they would be at work. The adults would play in the evening until nearly midnight and there was very little arguing.

I’m sure there are other suggestions that would be helpful toward solving this shortage of officials. There have been several high school baseball games when there were only one umpire and in some cases no officials.

This trend only hurts the players who just want to play the game. It’s time for the adults to step up and be adults.

And, it’s time for the OHSAA to step up and help solve the problem instead of just preaching from their well-financed pulpit.


Jim Walker is sports editor emeritus of The Ironton Tribune.