The Sac-Joaquin Section held its annual Media Day on Thursday, welcoming sports reporters from Sacramento to Merced.
For the first time since 2019 — there was no meeting in 2020 and the 2021 gathering focused almost exclusively on COVID issues — the meeting centered upon sports-related subjects such as Monday’s foundation volleyball games (to benefit the section’s Dale Lackey Scholarship Fund), school enrollments, league realignment and new section bylaws.
One of the most pressing issues facing section schools, according to assistant commissioner Will DeBoard, is the shortage of football officials.
“There’s not an easy way to solve this,” said DeBoard, a former high school sports reporter before joining the SJS in 2009. “I don’t believe we have 100 officials out there, sitting at home, not doing games. I think the people who want to do games are out there doing it.”
Each Friday night, 30 crews are needed for games in the southern half of the section, according to Brian Moore of MMSS, Inc., which handles the scheduling of officials. Moore said only about 25 crews are made available to him by the Northern California Officials Association, the entity responsible for recruiting and training officials. Also, each week, about one in eight officials can’t work, due to sickness, or work or family commitments.
So, Moore has to get creative. He can take a five-man officiating crew and make it a four-man crew (eliminating the back judge) and create extra crews with those fifth officials. Or, he can call other officiating associations from around the state and borrow some of their crews.
“But nobody has anybody,” Moore said. “And that’s the problem.”
The obvious solution would seem to be to shift games from Friday nights to Thursday or Saturday.
But that’s easier said than done.
“Getting an ambulance service or security or getting teachers to work adjunct duty at a game isn’t easy,” said DeBoard. “There are a lot of aspects to running a football game and for it to go smoothly, they all need to be in line. Everything is set up for Friday night.”
Besides, Thursday night games or Saturday afternoon games don’t usually pull in the same type of crowds as do Friday night games. And that hurts schools at the gate. For many schools, football provides two-thirds to three-fourths of a school’s entire athletic budget, according to an informal poll of local athletic directors.
If you are interested in becoming an official, contact Moore at (916) 612-3835 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The section also announced a new set of bylaws — 210 A, B and C — which deals directly with the safety of officials.
Bylaw 210 (A) states: “Any student who physically assaults the person of a game or event official shall be banned from interscholastic athletics for the remainder of the student’ eligibility.” 201(B) deals with coaches that assault officials (the offending coach’s school can lose it’s standing within the SJS for a year or more and the school would need to reapply for membership) and 210 (C) deals with spectators that assault officials (a lifetime ban from SJS events).
Another new bylaw is 503.9, which stipulates an Air Quality Index reading of 151 or below is required before the start of any outdoor athletic contest.
Another new bylaw is 2600.1.a, which clarifies the red and yellow cards in soccer. Two yellow cards result in a disqualification — like fouling out in basketball — and is not considered an ejection. Therefore, a player who draws two yellows is eligible to play in the team’s next scheduled contest.
The section reiterated that players ejected — kicked out of the game — for a non-fighting offense will miss the remainder of that contest and the next scheduled game. A second non-fighting ejection will result in missing the next three to six games and a third non-fighting ejection brings a suspension for the remainder of the season.
An ejection for fighting will bring about a three- to six-game suspension right out of the gate, and a second fighting ejection will result in suspension for the remainder of the season.
League realignment, when the section reshuffles the deck and groups schools together in leagues where they’re likely to enjoy the most success, always is a popular topic among fans. The restructuring will begin in earnest on Jan. 17, 2023. Those meetings, set to take place at The Reserve at Spanos Park in Stockton, are open to the public.