Marco schools caught in referee rift

Roger LaLonde Staff
Cody Young stretches to make catch in traffic during a Marco Island Charter Middle School football practice. The Eagles play their very first game in the history of the school at home against La Belle on Aug. 30.

Photo by ROGER LALONDE

Roger LaLonde Staff Cody Young stretches to make catch in traffic during a Marco Island Charter Middle School football practice. The Eagles play their very first game in the history of the school at home against La Belle on Aug. 30.

Roger Raymond

Photo by ROGER LALONDE, Eagle staff

Roger Raymond

“I doubt that people are lining up to be sports officials,” says Roger Raymond, athletic director for the Marco Island Charter Middle School and new Marco Island Academy Charter High School.

His remarks come on the heels of a controversy over representation of sports officials in Collier County.

When Collier Athletic Arbiters Association (CAAA) talks stalled with the Collier County School District, it led to the Florida High School Athletic Association not renewing the group’s sanction to operate.

The CAAA had been the only organization in Collier County sports for nearly two decades.

Former key members of the association, Randy Miller and Bill Walker, formed the Collier Officials Group (COG), which gained certification from the FHSAA. Former CAAA president John Stanley resigned, joining COG to run day-to-day operations.

However, the upheaval over how it was done caused many county referees to turn their backs on COG, going to a sanctioned Lee County group, or deciding not to officiate at all.

It leaves COG short of the minimum 25 officials needed for FHSAA sanctioning. It had until today (Friday) to get the required number that still falls short of what is needed on certain high school football nights, let alone the basketball season, which has games on several nights during the season.

The volleys of impropriety continue to fall on COG and Joe Kemper, Collier County Schools athletic director, who was involved in negotiations with both groups as they sought the county contract, which involves high schools and middle schools.

Raymond oversees both on Marco Island. He also coaches cross country, basketball and track for Charter School and will head the cross country teams for the Charter High School.

“Not just any Joe Blow can come off the street to coach high school sports,” Raymond said. “Referees need to maintain a high level of control over the teams, coaches and the crowds. Training new referees (as has been said by FHSAA and Kemper to fill the numbers needed) does not give you the experience that the present officials have. Every year there are new ones, but we have many who have officiated for a long time.”

Both Marco schools will get referees through the county.

“There have been some pretty aggressive remarks made about Joe Kemper, which I think have been well over done,” Raymond said. “Joe’s done a good job for us.”

The Charter Middle School has added football to its fall schedule, which means additional referees.

Raymond sees problems during the winter season. The county moved middle school soccer games, which used to be in the spring, to the same schedule as high school soccer games.

“It’s not easy to fill middle school games when you are assigning some of the same referees for high school games the same day,” Raymond said,

Referees also will be necessary for the high school basketball and volleyball programs.

Time is ticking. Eight area high schools open the preseason with games on Aug. 22. The Charter Middle School has its first football game on Aug. 30.

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