Section XI, the governing body of scholastic sports in Suffolk County, and its referees have been unable to reach an agreement on a new contract, which expires on Friday.
Tom Combs, the executive director of Section XI, said Thursday that if the two sides cannot come to terms on a deal, then the dispute could go to mediation or binding arbitration, which could affect the start of the fall season.
"It's a very real possibility that we won't have officials for the fall season," Combs said. "We've had so many opportunities to get this done and they haven't put much effort in getting it resolved."
Carl Nelson serves on the officials negotiating committee and has officiated five different high school sports, including football, baseball, girls soccer and boys and girls basketball for more than 30 years.
WHAT TO KNOW
- The five-year contract between Suffolk County's Section XI, the governing body of scholastic sports, and its referees expires on Friday.
- The two sides have yet to reach a deal and a delay could affect the start of the fall season for varsity, junior varsity and middle school sports.
- The issue does not affect Nassau County sports, which has a contract through 2025.
“The negotiating committee representing all the sports associations of officials in Suffolk County is working with Section XI towards a fair and equitable agreement for both sides,” Nelson said.
Nelson declined to comment further on the negotiations. Combs said Section XI officers have met four times with the five-member committee that represents interscholastic officials.
“We met in January of this year, and it didn’t go well,” Combs said. “They asked for a 33% increase. We told them to come back with a better proposal. According to the New York State Public High Schools Athletic Association, the Suffolk officials are the highest paid in the Northeast and in the top 10% in the country.
“We wanted to get ahead of this and avoid any issues with scheduling for the fall season of 2023,” Combs said. "They have not come up with an acceptable proposal. The last proposal was for a 10% raise."
The five-year contract set to expire on Friday went into effect on July 1, 2018, and included annual pay increases. Referees and umpires for varsity baseball, softball, soccer, basketball, lacrosse and gymnastics made $124 per game in the first year of the deal and $131 last season. Varsity football officials made $127 per game in the first year and $134 in the last. Varsity wrestling referees were paid $139 this past season.
A delay in reaching a deal causes scheduling problems, Combs said. Officials were mandated to submit all fall season availability by June 1 as per the existing contract.
“We have over 700 officials and as of this weekend we only have availability from 50 of them to cover our nine fall sports,” Combs said.
In Nassau, Pat Pizzarelli, the executive director for Section VIII, which governs all Nassau athletics, said the sectional contract for his county runs through 2025. Its payments are in line with what Suffolk referees were making last year.
"We are monitoring what happens in Suffolk very closely," Pizzarelli said.