DENVER (KDVR) — High school sports officials in Colorado are in line for big raises next school year.
Schools voted to pass the pay structure at the Jan. 24 meeting of the Legislative Council, according to the Colorado High School Activities Association.
Starting in August, officials will see a phased-in pay increase. In the first year, it will rise 33-35%, and it will be up 45-49% by year three.
At Mullen High School, basketball official Jeff LaGrange said it’s a positive step for the future of the profession.
“I’ve got a personal saying: I don’t do it for the money, but I wouldn’t do it for free,” he said.
LaGrange does real estate as a full-time job and referees high school basketball as a hobby. He said there’s more to it than just the games. Referees have to be in great shape and stay up to date on rules.
“It’s not just show up, blow the whistle, go home and forget about it,” LaGrange said.
But across the nation, thousands of referees have called it quits since the pandemic. LaGrange is hoping the pay increase will attract some back to the court.
“This is one of the most significant fee increases I’ve seen in my 21 years. Obviously, money is a motivating factor,” he said.
Colorado passes goal on referee recruitment
Michael Book, CHSAA assistant commissioner, said the new pay structure aims to deal with issues like recruitment, retainment “and being among the leader, or at least competitive with surrounding states and their officials’ fees.”
As more schools open, more games are played, and that’s led officials to work more nights and see quicker burnout, Book said. Book said a campaign to recruit more officials — with CHSAA covering the cost of dues and uniforms — has been successful. A goal to attract 500 new officials was surpassed, with more than 610 signing up since the campaign started on Nov. 1.
“With the combination of this campaign and the new pay structure, we hope to both recruit and retain officials and allow the schools to play games/matches on nights that they desire instead of having to move games off those nights due to the shortage of officials,” Book said.
School budgets will be affected by the raises, Book said, as schools are responsible for paying officials’ fees. Sports officials are independent contractors.