High school football teams no longer have to worry about a red flag halting their season before it starts thanks to an agreement between the Cleveland Football Officials Association and area athletic conferences.
The CFOA had hinted at a potential boycott of Week 1 games due to a conflict between pay scales among area conferences.
Following a July 28 meeting at Beachwood High School, that situation has been resolved through a five-year plan that will see referee pay increased incrementally throughout the agreement.
“We’ll be playing ball and everybody will be cheering their teams on as scheduled on Aug. 19,” Chagrin Valley Conference commissioner Dr. Don Lewis told The News-Herald. “The two sides came together, cooler heads negotiated and prevailed. Let’s play ball.”
According to the five-year plan, area leagues using the CFOA agreed to pay officials $80 per game in 2022, $90 during the 2023 and 2024 seasons, and $100 during the 2025 and 2026 seasons.
Junior varsity officials also will see a pay increase. Each official will receive $60 per game in 2022, $70 in 2023 and 2024, and $80 in 2025 and 2026.
The agreement also extended to junior high officials who will be paid $50 per game over the next two seasons, $55 in 2024 and 2025, and $60 in 2026.
This agreement will be reviewed and evaluated by the conferences and the CFOA moving forward.
Among the conferences that attended the meeting were representatives from the CVC, Cleveland Senate League, Great Lakes Conference, Greater Cleveland Conference, Lake Erie League, Crown Conference, Lorain County League, Mahoning Valley Athletic Conference, Northeast 8 Conference, Northeast Athletic Conference, Southwestern Conference, Suburban League, and Western Reserve Conference.
OHSAA Director of Officiating and Sports Management Beau Rugg, Northeast District Athletic Board assigner Pat Montanta, and St. Ignatius athletic Director Rory Fitzpatrick, who represented independent schools, also attended the meeting.
While the new agreement addressed the officiating pay scale, other issues also were presented.
“We’re very happy the way things worked out,” said Beachwood athletic Director Ryan Peters. “It took a lot of time and effort between myself, Don, and both Rocky Neale and Brian Crummie from the officials’ association. We worked closely with many conference commissioners and conference leaders to make this happen. We talked through how we could come together with officiating fees and how we could help grow the officiating world and better help officials before, during, and after contests and better protect them from unruly fans.”
Using an incremental pay increase will allow area school districts to appropriately adjust their future budgets to meet the increased fees.
The CVC also is prepared to address officials’ fees with other associations in the near future.
“We were only able to get through football on July 28,” Peters said. “We started with football but had every intention to tackle other sports. We essentially ran out of time to discuss other sports in our meeting. We are going back to this group to discuss other sports in the next 30 days. We have a meeting scheduled at the end of the month to address all other sports that have officials. We anticipate giving bumps to those sports starting in 2024 if everyone agrees.”