WPIAL lacrosse match rescheduled after officials decline to accept assignment

Tuesday, April 5, 2022 | 1:51 PM

A simmering discontent by officials about pay and travel forced Trinity to reschedule a boys lacrosse game, but the WPIAL was optimistic the season won’t be disrupted by a widespread work stoppage.

Trinity intended to host Chartiers Valley in a section contest Tuesday night, but the three officials declined in advance to work the game, Trinity athletic director Ricci Rich said, adding that two of the officials declined because “it’s too far to travel for that rate.” The school was notified Monday.

The game was rescheduled to April 29.

“At first I thought this was a Trinity issue, and now I see it’s not,” said Rich, who was part of an email chain among WPIAL athletic directors. “They’re doing this to a ton of schools. Now I’ve got parents who are upset because our kids aren’t playing, and I agree. After the last two springs, there’s no reason these kids should not be playing.”

Coincidentally, the postponement comes during PIAA Officials Appreciation Week for spring sports.

Chartiers Valley athletic director Mike Gavlik said this was the first time he’d had a game in any sport rescheduled because officials declined to work.

“It’s not the normal reason we cancel in the spring,” he said.

All PIAA game officials are independent contractors, making them free to accept or decline any game offered to them. The officials for regular season games are not scheduled by the WPIAL but instead by an independent assignor.

“Some of the boys lacrosse officials have said that they believe they need more money,” WPIAL administrator Vince Sortino said. “That (pay rate) doesn’t come from our office. That’s a league-wide decision with each individual school.”

The host school pays officials.

Rich said Trinity pays $80 for lacrosse games, the rate recommended by WPIAL athletic directors. That rate was $78 last season and increases to $84 next year.

“Our (lacrosse) boosters are willing to pay above, but here’s the issue: There’s an agreement (among schools) in place,” Rich said. “I can’t go above that rate because that agreement is made by all of the schools in the WPIAL.”

Also, a rate increase for one sport would likely lead to an increase for all, he said.

“Our budgets are already done for next year,” Gavlik said. “For someone to come in the spring and say, ‘Hey, I need more money because of gas prices’ or whatever else … that becomes a tough situation.”

WPIAL board member Nick Morea, who represents officials for boys sports, said he was confident all WPIAL lacrosse section games will be played this season, but some may be rescheduled to different dates.

Also, the number of officials working each contest might drop from three to two.

“We’ll get all of the games covered,” Morea said. “It just may take us longer during the regular season to cover them. But there are enough of officials accepting assignments to cover the games.”

Morea said he was optimistic the issue wouldn’t become disruptive for teams.

“We got into officiating for the kids and we can’t lose sight of that,” he said.

Morea attributed the current issue with lacrosse to a culmination of factors, including pay and travel, but he also cited a shortage of officials overall. Lacrosse already had a smaller pool of available officials than most other WPIAL sports, he said.

Some schools do pay officials more than others and those assignments are taken first, Morea said.

And with gas prices high, officials aren’t as willing to drive long distances for assignments. As a result, the approach used by assignor Matt Martin to schedule lacrosse officials this spring may become more regional, with officials given contests closer to home.

“If you live in Washington County, you’re going to be doing more games in the Trinity, Canon-Mac, Peters Township area,” Sortino said.

Pay rates have been a point of contention with lacrosse officials for years.

The WPIAL and City League lacrosse officials attempted to unionize as employees of the PIAA in 2015, but the D.C. Court of Appeals ruled against them four years later, saying the officials are independent contractors, not employees.

“This lacrosse issue has been going on for years, back and forth,” Rich said. “I was still at Moon the last time this happened. We almost weren’t able to play, but we were able to get it worked out. This is the first time in 17 years that I’ve canceled a game because the officials refused to come work for the agreed rate.”

Chris Harlan is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Chris by email at charlan@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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