I am sure many would like to know the answer to the question of how basketball officials are assigned prelim and tournament games, as the prelims start Tuesday and the tourney opens Friday.
If you have a Maine High School Invitational Tournament program from any class from last year, in it you will find an article, “Maine Basketball Commission Unique,” by Peter Webb, basketball commissioner. This will give you the commission history, method of regulating the assignment of tournament officials and its purposes.
If you do not have a copy of the story, here is info from it dealing with selection of tourney officials:
“The process by which the Maine Basketball Commission regulates officiating for tournaments in Maine is finely tuned. In order to be a tournament official for a Maine Principals’ Association sponsored invitational, basketball officials must be IAABO members. The basketball commissioner oversees the management and supervision of tournament officials.
“To be eligible to make the tournament pool, an official must annually attend an MPA/Commission rules clinic, annually take and pass the IAABO rules exam; be in good standing with his or her IAABO regional board, and officiate 14 or more high school varsity (Heal point) games throughout the season.
“The MPA sends a ballot to each school/coach. The coaches are asked to recommend 10 officials whose work would be acceptable as tournament officials. The ballots listing the officials names are tallied and approximately 80-100 officials, those with the greatest support from coaches, are named to the tournament pool. References from the IAABO regional board, assigners, and interpreters, as well as rating systems are used to support the ballot results.
“All tournament assignments, including the state finals, are made by the commissioner and tournament site supervisor of officials. Throughout the tournament, the work of the officials is supervised and evaluated by the commissioner and/or a supervisor of officials.”
Based on my 58 years of experience as a high school player, high school coach, official, basketball commission member as a coaches rep, and as a board assigner and president, here is some history from the school/coach/athletic administrator side on how we got to this current procedure of assigning prelim and tournament games..
When I went into high school coaching in 1961, the schools/coaches were guaranteed one official for each quarterfinal, semifinal, regional final and state final. This went on into the 1990s.
Then the policy was changed so that schools/coaches were only guaranteed an official off their list of 10 for the quarterfinals. Now and for at least the past 12-plus seasons coaches/schools are not guaranteed an official off their list for any postseason tournament games.
Speaking as a school coach/athletic director, I preferred the original procedure of giving each school/coach one official off their list of 10 because I felt I should have input on who officiated my postseason games.
I realize it will take more officials to do this, but just as the MPA has added more teams to the playoffs, maybe a list of 20 officials could make this possible. If more teams have been added why not more officials? There was no problem when they added one more official for the tournament games.
Again, quoting from the article:
“The purposes of the Maine Basketball Commission are to establish good relationships between schools and officials; to improve officiating in Maine basketball; to establish an authority for the settlement of controversies among schools related to the selection and play and to improve consistency across Maine.
“Under this system, it may take five or six years for a young official to work a varsity game. Selections to be a state tournament official is very competitive indeed. Through critiques, the officials undergo scrutiny. Today, there are approximately 600 officials in Maine — over twice the number in 1955.
“The supply and quality of officials has always been good. School administrators, site directors, and coaches are out of the decision-making process when it comes to between the lines of a tournament game.This is as it should be.We have zero politics and other states are very envious of the commission.”
Now let’s look at the Commission’s purposes from the schools/coaches/athletic administrators side.
By changing the lists procedure twice, is that establishing “good relationships between schools and officials”?
I know as a school coach/athletic administrator for 34 years that I wanted to be able to have one of the officials I listed on my tournament ballot assigned to all of my tournament games.
The main reason I wanted this was because officiating in the tourney is different than in the regular season. First, there are three officials not two. Second, there is added pressure on officials because they are constantly being supervised and evaluated for future tournament assignments. Third, there is the pressure of much larger crowds and fourth, the pressure of games being one-and-done for the players..
Players and coaches face some of these same pressures of playing in tournament games just like officials do. There are some officials, players and coaches who adjust well to the differences and there are some who don’t. That is one of the reasons I wanted an official off my list of 10, along with other obvious abilities of the different officials.
Has the purpose “to improve officiating consistency across Maine” been met?
Ask this question to some of the visiting teams that play out of their own area in the regular season and then play in a state championship game.
When the lists are tallied and the officials are selected to the tournament pool, then why use input from things such as “references from the IAABO regional board, assigners, and interpreters, as well as rating systems are used to support the ballot results.”
Does this still make for “zero politics”?
Is the game of high school basketball for the players, teams or the officials?
I hope I have answered this question,.
Good luck to all the players. coaches and officials in postseason play.
If you would like to request a subject for this column please e-mail it to firstname.lastname@example.org. Also, more basketball articles are available on this BDN blog.