High School Sports

Coast basketball officials vote to end strike

 Pass Christian coach Buddy Kennedy, right, makes his case with an official in Jackson.
TIM ISBELL/THE SUN HERALD Pass Christian coach Buddy Kennedy, right, makes his case with an official in Jackson.

The Gulf Coast Basketball Officials Association voted Wednesday night in Gautier to end its strike prior to the start of the high school basketball season.

Less than a week ago, the GCBOA and Mississippi High School Activities Association appeared to be far apart on negotiations to increase the officials' pay.

That all changed this week.

GCBOA president Joe Davis said Wednesday night that the decision to end the strike was based on improved communication in the last few days with the MHSAA.

"We took strong consideration for the schools as well as the kids," Davis said. "All along, we have wanted to work. It was just a matter of coming up with a workable situation. There were compromises that both parties could agree on. That being said, we hope to continue to have good faith negotiations with the MHSAA."

Davis declined to provide details of the recent negotiations with the MHSAA, but he was upbeat about the direction they were headed.

"I probably had more communication with the state office this past Monday than I had the previous three months," the Pascagoula resident said.

The decision allows local officials to take the court with the start of jamborees on Saturday across the state. The first official games will be played Nov. 5.

"It's definitely a relief," Davis said. "I was prepared to do whatever our group voted to do."

Officials were paid $40 a game last year, bringing their nightly pay to $80.

The officials sought a $15 increase per game, but the the Mississippi High School Activities Association approved only a $5 for the upcoming season.

The GCBOA made the counteroffer of a raise of $10 per game this season with $5 a game added over the next three years.

The MHSAA declined that request.

In an attempt to break the strike, MHSAA associate director Rickey Neaves sent an email last week to members of the GCBOA asking them to abandon their group and sign up for a new association.

The MHSAA softened its approach this week, opening up communications with the GCBOA.

Mississippi features 10 different basketball official associations, but the GCBOA was the lone group that followed through with a strike.

The state's basketball referees are the lowest paid among all officials who work for the MHSAA.

The GCBOA represents basketball officials in six counties - Jackson, Harrison, Hancock, Pearl River, George and Stone.