Officials affected by reduction of games
The decision to cut varsity games, except football, by 20 percent and junior varsity games, including football, by 40 percent will affect more than just high school athletes and sports programs in the next two years. High School and middle school sports officials will see a reduction in pay. "We're caught in a quandary," said Jack Brown, a 24-year official who works for the West Coast Officials Association, which handles basketball and football for Hillsborough and Pasco Counties. "We don't know how we'll do it. We're unsure." On Monday, the Florida High School Athletic Association Board of Directors voted 9-6 in favor of reducing games.In the fall, however, the FHSAA reported the growing numbers of high schools and student-athletes in Florida were not consistent with the demand for officials. As a result, the FHSAA created the "Become an Official" campaign. The campaign said coaches, parents and the average sports fan should officiate simply for extra money. With the reduction of games, that may not be a possibility. Bobby Asciolla, 54, has been a high schools sports official for 15 years. An official in Hernando County, he said some officials can make between $40-45 per game. He fears cutting games will hurt officials who depend on the job for a secondary, and in some cases primary, means of income. "Let's say there are 200 high schools in Florida and they take away five games from each team in each sport. Imagine that in cash," Asciolla said. "Now, there are less games to fight for, for the same amount of (officials). Some guys have to do this because they've lost hours (with other jobs) and they need this to make ends meet." "Those particular guys, they depend on that as a secondary job and for that not to be there id definitely a hindrance," Brown said. Declining health has forced Asciolla to work less hours. His concern is more for his 25-year-old son, Chris, who wants to pursue officiating full-time. "He was planning to make a career out of it," he said. "He wants to move up to college and the pros." With fewer games to gain experience, Asciolla fears that dream may no longer be a reality for young officials. "The same guys get all of the (varsity) work," he said. "Guys will lose work in other sports. I do volleyball because I can't get around and now that's going to be crucified." "It'll definitely affect our young guys coming through because the senior officials get first choice," Brown said.
Reporter Nick Williams can be reached at (813) 259-7851.