By: John Van de Vaarst, National Clinician
Over the past several years the role of an intercollegiate assignor has changed significantly. For many years the majority of assignors were part of a chapter and assigned chapter members to games within the confines of the chapter’s geography. At times the assignor would invite someone from another chapter to officiate a game so that the assistant referees would observe a fresh perspective. This method of assigning began to transition when several Division I conferences hired an assignor to provide officials for all conference games and subsequently all games played by the teams within the conference. In other words, at the onset, the conference assignor within a conference such as the Big 10 would assign Penn State conference games and the local chapter would assign the other games Penn State played. This type of assigning has trickled down to Division II and III and now even into Junior College and the NAIA games. Junior College assignors now assign an entire Junior College Region. Assignors have now become independent contractors and depending on how many conferences the assignor is contracted with he/she functions as a small business. As a result assignors are now very competitive in bidding on new contracts for assigning. In some cases, individuals within the same chapter bid against each other to secure the contract for a conference.
While competition is normally a good thing, competitive bidding for conferences can lead to other problems. Some assignors have decided to submit a very cost effective bid to obtain a conference contract. To make up the difference, the assignor charges fees to officials for items such as training, access to the assignor’s web site, assigning services, etc. Often times the conference is not aware of these charges and if the conference leadership is aware they are not concerned as long as the games are assigned quality officials. It should be noted that assignors who charge these types of fees are not in compliance with NISOA policies.
Officials are independent contractors. As such, each official decides what assignments he/she will accept and what assignors the official is willing to work with and be a part of the assignor’s overall group. Often times this is a hard choice because the official wants to work the best games possible and will accept assignments from anyone and pay whatever fees are necessary to be assigned as many games as possible. Some officials have decided not to accept assignments from individuals who charge fees. As an independent contractor that is the official’s decision. When this occurs, some conferences and teams do not have the best officials assigned.
With the continual growth of independent assignors, chapters are questioning their relevance. A NISOA chapter has a very important role in the continual growth of intercollegiate soccer. The local chapter is the primary training arm for NISOA as a whole. Chapter meetings should focus on rule interpretations, points of emphasis, and open discussions on plays that have occurred and may have resulted in problems of game management. Chapters should not lessen the training efforts because assignments are being made by a conference assignor.
The second role of a chapter is recruitment. The intercollegiate soccer game is growing and more qualified officials are needed to ensure all assignments are made with the best possible person available. A few chapters do not want to recruit because the older members are afraid that he/she will not get as many assignments. This is a very parochial view. New officials are always needed and must receive training so that they can be the future of the intercollegiate game. Chapters are encouraged to recruit new members and mentor them so that every member has the opportunity to improve his/her skills and become the best official possible.
Officials must recognize when his/her skill level has diminished and be willing to work with others for the betterment of the game in general. It is a very rewarding experience to work with a young official, observe him/her develop and advance to a high level of officiating.
Assignors and officials are independent contractors. They choose to function in various manners. It is up to each official to decide what is best for his/her career advancement.