As high school sports begin this fall, the Illinois High School Association has to fill some gaps in its officiating ranks. The association has a shortage of people who have the training and skills to officiate basketball, football, soccer and other sports. Officials say they are leaving the job for various reasons, including low pay rates, long travel and verbal abuse from coaches, players and fans.
Kurt Gibson, associate executive director of the IHSA, says the association has made some progress in recruiting new officials and keeping existing ones. He says the association is putting more emphasis on recruiting younger people, and it has lowered licensing fees for graduating seniors and veterans. He also says the association has launched a committee to examine postseason assigning and compensation.
But even with the improvements, Gibson says the IHSA still doesn’t have enough officials to run its programs. He says a shortage could affect some championship games and playoffs, and he wants lawmakers to give the association more power to hire officials.
State Reps. John Cabello, R-Machesney Park; Brian Stewart, R-Freeport; and Joe Sosnowski, R-Rockford, have introduced legislation that would allow the IHSA to hire its own officials. They and other lawmakers who voted for the bill say it’s time to put some muscle behind the IHSA, which hasn’t been held accountable by the State Board of Education. The board has enough on its plate overseeing classrooms in Illinois, critics argue. The IHSA does not collect assessment fees from member schools, instead relying on private donations and shares of ticket fees at tournaments to finance itself. Its annual Internal Revenue Service filings are public.