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Football Referees Cry Foul in Pay Dispute; 95% Favor Boycott in Fall

May 18, 1986|STEVE HENSON | Times Staff Writer

Football officials, by nature, are more military than militant. They demand respect from coaches and players.

Coaches know that when an official makes a decision, it stands. All a strenuous objection gets is a yellow flag.

In an intriguing turnabout, however, the normally conservative Southern California Football Officials Assn. has gone beyond objecting strenuously to a recent decision made by the Southern Section executive council.

Officials are threatening to boycott the 1986 season. The zebras aren't horsing around.

Representatives from the 11 Southland units that comprise the association will meet Thursday to decide on a course of action. Dennis Angel, president of the San Fernando Valley unit, said his membership has voiced its intention loud and clear.

"Our membership was polled and 95% are in favor of a boycott," Angel said. "We've been backed into a corner and have few options except to boycott."

Officials are in a frenzy for three reasons: The hard-line posture of the Southern Section toward negotiations; displeasure with the pay scale; and objection to working doubleheaders.

The Southern Section last week voted, 51-5, to give officials a raise of $1 a game next season and $2 a game for each of the next two seasons. Officials had proposed raises of $3 a game for each of the next three seasons.

The Southern Section's refusal to negotiate the pay increase has officials miffed. Bob Smith, a Ventura County official who is a member of the fees committee, said the proposal made by officials was offered after careful research.

"We read our proposal at the council meeting and, without discussion, they approved their own proposal," Smith said. "They simply refuse to talk. Their attitude is a slap in the face to officials."

There is no precedent for negotiating with officials, according to Southern Section Commissioner Ray Plutko, who will remain in office until July 1 when he assumes a similar post in Colorado.

"Officials are paid through student body funds," Plutko said. "Nowhere in the bylaws are negotiations specified. Officials provide input and are given due process. I'm not aware of too many football coaches who make more per hour during games than officials."

Dave Hull, assistant chairman of the officials' fees committee, said that by the time a new official calls his first game, he has spent nearly as much money as he will make the entire season.

"Instructional materials, uniforms and the time spent in classes are very real costs," Hull said. "The belief that officials make a lot of money is a misperception. Most officials are in it for the camaraderie and the kids--not the money."

Hull said the officials want to negotiate in good faith.

"The CIF is going to realize we have not been dealt with fairly," Hull said. "They've been doing this forever and it's going to stop."

Last season, three of the four officials working a single game earned $34 and the referee earned $37. The pay was $47 and $53 for doubleheaders. A official makes $500 to $700 during a season.

Game fees are not the primary issue for the San Fernando Valley officials, however. They want to eliminate the scheduling of the same officials for junior varsity and varsity doubleheaders. Schools, which save $76 a game in fees by using the same officials for both ends of doubleheaders, voted not to change the scheduling policy.

"We'd just as soon not have a pay raise," Angel said. "Just give us one game."

Several units in the Southland, including the one that officiates games in Ventura County, have permission from schools to split doubleheaders. They claim the policy enables newer officials to gain experience during junior varsity games while more experienced ones are fresh for varsity contests.

Gary Anderson, a third-year San Fernando Valley official, said that forcing officials to work doubleheaders deprives newer officials of game experience.

"Splitting doubleheaders would open up spots for first-, second- and third-year officials," Anderson said. "Schools are always crying for more experienced officials, but when they insist on guys working doubleheaders, newer officials don't have a chance to gain experience."

The pay scale approved by the Southern Section is honored by the City Section as well. Dale Williams, an NFL official who assigns City games, said he is surprised that officials are making such an issue of doubleheaders.

"In my opinion there are not enough qualified officials to work all the games," Williams said. "We're not talking about too much physical exertion. I worked doubleheaders for years and thoroughly enjoyed it. It must be the difference in fees."

Williams said he did not oppose a boycott, however. "If officials feel strongly enough about something and don't think they are getting proper response, they should do whatever they think is right."

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