High school notebook: Refs voice concerns about return of sports

Representatives of the state’s officials’ associations spoke with the DIAA board about some of their concerns about dealing with the pandemic. Delaware State News file photos

Referees are often a forgotten part of a high school game.

And, by and large, officials don’t want to be in the spotlight.

But, with Delaware high school sports getting ready to restart, the state’s refs want to make sure that their questions and concerns about officiating during the coronavirus pandemic are addressed.

That’s why a few of their representatives spelled out their questions at the Delaware Interscholastic Athletic Association board of directors meeting on Thursday morning.

“I can’t say it strongly enough. … we want the kids back on the playing field, back on the courts, just like you do,” said Walter Connor, who is president of basketball’s IAAB Board 11. “This is about the student-athletes. But we want to know how we officiate the rules and all those concerns for the student-athletes, for the officials and for the schools.”

Recognizing that there’s already a shortage of officials in Delaware, Connor said polls show that between 25 to 30 percent of refs across all sports in the state would opt out if they have to wear masks.

The situation, though, seemed particularly dire in New Castle County where the Northern Delaware association currently has only 21 football officials committed to working. Connor did say the referees were willing to work with athletic directors to get to the most number of games.

More than anything, though, Connor said officials want to know what safety procedures are in place and whether they’ll be notified if someone in a game they’ve worked tests positive for COVID-19 — or vice versa.

“You have a game on a Monday night,” said Connor, giving an example. “On Tuesday, you have two players test positive. How is that notification going to work?

One of the officials’ biggest concerns is with communication if a student-athlete tests positive for the virus.

“Because while the teams might not play for another couple of days, the officials are going to be on to the next game site, and potentially the next game site after that.”

Many of the state’s officials have been working travel-ball events over the summer. The refs on hand Thursday were asked about what protocols they had to follow.

Different states have different regulations.

“It’s all over the place,” said Greg Bulger, head of the state’s lacrosse officials association. “Some facilities you go to and it’s very locked down for summer tournaments. … Other places it was like nothing happened.”

That’s why, the officials said, they need the new guidelines to be consistent across the state — from conference to conference and school to school. Combined with a meeting with state officials on Monday, Connor said he feels like the situation is well on its way to be sorted out.

“I think we’ve had more communication with officials’ associations and all the relevant parties than we’ve had in a very long time,” he said. “I think that’s a positive thing.”

Football scheduling

As Henlopen Conference football teams are finalizing their schedules, it’s becoming obvious that downstate fans are going to see a lot of both Caravel and Salesianum.

Sallies is the one non-conference contest for three Northern Division squads — Dover, Smyrna and Sussex Central. At the moment, those are the only three games the Sals have slated.

Caravel, meanwhile, is the non-conference foe for Cape Henlopen, Laurel, Milford and Woodbridge.

Also of note on the schedules, Dover and Caesar Rodney will not play their rivalry matchup as the season finale. Instead, it will be played as the fifth contest on the seven-game schedule, on Nov. 20 in Camden.

Likewise, Milford and Lake Forest will play the Battle of the Bell on Thanksgiving Day. No time is listed for the contest yet.
Polytech is going to open its season with a Saturday game, on Oct. 24, at Tower Hill.

And it looks like the Henlopen North teams will have the Milford/Polytech contest — they play one or the other — count as a division game.

Insurance an issue?

Right at the end of Thursday’s DIAA board meeting the subject of insurance came up.

While it wasn’t spelled out, it sounded like school districts were being notified on Thursday that a significant change in insurance costs and/or coverage under the DIAA is coming in the next few days.

Part of the board conversation was about communication of the change. But it also seemed like it could become an issue sometime down the road.

“This is a situation that is extremely important to every school district … that now has to re-budget or re-allocate for insurance,” said Caesar Rodney superintendent Dr. Kevin Fitzgerald, a DIAA board member.

The issue also involved liability, with Fitzgerald noting that Delaware is the only state whose athletic association is connected directly to the state.

Notes

The state of Maryland announced on Thursday that public schools can begin fall sports competition on Oct. 27. … Connor had said that officials in other states were interested in working in Delaware. But Maryland’s decision could change that. … While current state regulations cap public gatherings at 250 people, there is the possibility of having larger crowds. Schools, however, would have to have a plan OK’d by the state Department of Health.