PHOENIX (3TV / CBS 5) From bad language to combat, high school sports officials face a record number of layoffs in Arizona. The problem is so out of control that the Arizona Inter-House Association (AIA), which oversees high school sports, is considering harsher penalties and stronger enforcement.
According to the AIA, in the academic year before the plague hit, there were 1,058 layoffs, including 215 coaches. By the four months to the end of this academic year, there have already been 1,218 layoffs, including 327 coaches. Jeff Barker has been running games for more than two decades and says personal attacks are becoming more frequent.
“Personally, as a clerk, I was attacked after a game. I had fans following me to my car after a game. I had coaches waiting for me after the game to say I did a terrible job,” Barker says.
Brian Gasner is the Commissioner of Government AIA officials. According to Gasner, at the national level, more than 50,000 game officials have left over the past three years. He blames bad behavior, including on the part of fans.
“Two weeks ago I had 14 consecutive days of bench clearances. I had a fan who came out of the stands and tore an official’s shirt. I had a fan who went out and slapped a football official. I got a coach who came into a locker room and pushed a basketball official,” Gassner says.
Increasing penalties for players and coaches is an option discussed. Right now, if a person is ejected from a game, he sits outside for the rest of the game and the game that follows. For a second emission, the person takes out the game and two subsequent games. Third emission, and the man goes out for the season.
The increased penalties imposed may include fines, bringing people before the board for harsher punishment, or increasing the number of games people sit out. Instead of focusing on actions on the pitches and in the courts, officials should increasingly take care of security and recalcitrant fans, a duty that should be the responsibility of the often stretched school administration.
Gasner is now sending a message and warning that game officials could become more aggressive and start using their authority to shut down a game if fans are abusive or out of control. The bottom line is that it comes down to the safety of officials, players, coaches and fans, and quarrels, intimidation and profanity here have no place in sports that are supposed to be part of the game.
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