Officially Screwed

by April 04, 2011

by Clay Kallam

Think about the State Playoffs. The best teams are pretty much always there, having run the gantlet of postseason, and they are clearly the cream of the crop.

Well, except for one team: the officials.

Again, think about the state playoffs. When the boys play, how many female officials are there? When the girls play, how many female officials are there?

Now, let’s make it clear that women can be, and are, excellent officials. There is absolutely nothing wrong with having a woman run onto the court to call a state championship game—except for the fact that she isn’t going to be running on the court to call a boys’ game, and that’s just wrong.

First, it’s not fair to the female officials. After all, if they’re good enough to do a state championship game, why should they only be doing girls’ games? If they’re good enough to decide a state title for girls, why not for boys as well?

Which leads to point two: If they’re not good enough to do boys’ games, then why are they good enough to call girls’ games? If they’re just there because of some misguided nod to feminist affirmative action, that’s simply unfair to the players, coaches and fans of the girls’ teams, who certainly deserve the best officials possible in a state championship game.

There’s also another aspect to this issue: Many more men than women are officials, in any sport. (That’s probably because women have more sense than men and reasonably opt out of doing such a thankless job.)

This disparity in numbers wouldn’t be an issue if officials for postseason games were chosen by ranking and/or ability with no consideration for gender. In other words, if there are 10 state championship games (five for girls and five for boys) and three officials for each, and if the top 30 officials regardless of gender worked those games, there’d be no need to write this article. Presumably, then, if five women were in that list of top 30, they would be randomly assigned, and as likely to call a boys’ game as a girls’ game.

The reality is, though, that, to pick a number, the top ten officials are in the pool for a particular state title game. If there are 100 male officials, that means only those in the 90th percentile and above get the call. But if there are only 20 women (and usually the ratio isn’t that high), then the girls get officials in the 50th percentile and above. If you ranked all 120 officials in order, without regard to gender, the girls would be getting, at the worst, refs in the 83rd percentile and above, and boys would have females officiate their games.

So again, think about the state playoffs. When was the last time a woman did a boys’ title game?

Now some will huff and puff about the speed of the game, and how the women aren’t fast enough—but those are probably the same grey-haired, overweight guys who can’t keep up to boys’ games but do them anyway. And they also forget that three-person mechanics negates the need for raw speed in officiating.

In short, basketball is basketball and officiating is officiating. If a woman is good enough to decide who wins a state title—if a woman is good enough to help determine the outcome of a game that is the culmination of literally years of effort—then surely she’s good enough to do so for the boys as well as the girls.

And when that happens, when the likelihood of seeing a female official calling a boys’ game is just the same as the likelihood of seeing a female official calling a girls’ game, then we’ll all know that the best refs are getting assigned to the most important games.

But as long female officials only work the girls’ games, then it’s clear that state high school associations are more concerned with political correctness than giving the girls the same kind of experience that they give the boys, and that girls’ high school basketball is clearly considered second class by the people who run the sport.